National Popular-Vote Bill in Maine Gaining Steam

Maine splits its four electoral votes: half go to the presidential candidate won the state overall, and the other half goes to whoever won each congressional district. (mounsey/Pixabay)

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AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine is the latest state to consider a national popular-vote bill. It would commit Maine’s Electoral College votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote, rather than the one who wins the state. 

A public hearing will be held on Friday at the state Legislature’s Joint Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee about the House and Senate versions of the bill. Maine Senate President Troy Jackson is the lead sponsor of the Senate version. While he and most of the bill’s sponsors are Democrats, Jackson does not view this as a partisan issue.

“I got elected as an independent. I have been registered as a Republican before. I don’t think people really care about the fact that the last two times that this happened, Republican presidents ended up winning through the Electoral College,” Jackson said. “I think it’s still very upsetting when they start thinking that there’s a rigged system out there, that their votes don’t really count.”

Maine has four electoral votes. Nationwide, 11 states and the District of Columbia have passed similar legislation, representing a total of 172 electoral votes. The process of assigning electoral votes in Maine will not change until similar laws are passed in enough states to reach at least 270 electoral votes – the number needed to win a presidential election.

Jackson said there could be a lot of deliberation after the public hearing.

“I don’t think this is a slam dunk, even on the committee,” he said. “I think a lot of people probably understand or have heard of this, or whatever. But I think it might have to settle in.”

Several popular-vote bills have been introduced in the Maine Legislature in the past 12 years, including in 2017, when it was killed in committee. But now, there’s a Democratic governor and Democratic control of the Legislature for the first time since 2010, which may increase the chances of the bill going forward.

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