PRIMER: Bill to give away Maine’s electoral college votes approved by Maine Senate

Map of the 2016 Electoral College Map with Maine’s electoral college votes split.

AUGUSTA – Democrats in the Maine State Senate voted to approve a bill that would circumvent the electoral college earlier today in Augusta. By a vote of 19-16 the Senate approved Senate President Troy Jackson’s bill, L.D. 816. The vote reversed a recommendation from a legislative committee that cast a bipartisan vote that the bill “ought not to pass.”

The bill would enter an agreement with other states to give away Maine’s four electoral college votes to the candidate that wins the most votes across the other 49 states, plus Maine.

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, as it is called, has become law in 15 “states and jurisdictions” that control a total of 189 electoral college votes so far, according to the website of the group pushing the issue nationally.

In addition to allowing Maine’s electoral college votes to be given away to a candidate that doesn’t win the most votes in Maine or in either Congressional District, the proposal would mathematically reduce the strength of Maine’s vote in the Presidential election by around 20 percent if calculated based upon the 2018 results.

Under the electoral college, Maine’s four electoral college votes out of the total 538 electoral college votes in the nation equal about 7/10 of one percent of the overall vote.

But in 2016, Maine’s actual vote total as a percentage of the national vote total was closer to 5/10 of one percent.

Opponents of the national popular vote effort point out that small states benefit from the electoral college by requiring Presidential candidates to travel across many states, learning about and addressing the concerns of a diverse cross-section of Americans.

They say a switch to the national popular vote would encourage Presidential candidates to camp out in the larger states, such as California and New York, which produce tens of millions of votes in a Presidential election, instead of smaller states which might produce only 250,000 to 750,000 votes. The bill also diminishes the voice of Maine voters, they say.

The proposal that is now approved by the Maine Senate is curious in that it sets up a scenario where a candidate could win only a few states, but with large enough margins of victory in the popular vote that they won the national popular vote, thereby forcing a majority of states that voted against that candidate to award them the electoral votes they need to become President.

Advocates for national popular vote argue that it is a more direct democratic method of electing the President.

Opponents of Maine joining the interstate compact argue that Maine’s law allowing the state to split our electoral votes by Congressional District strikes a healthy balance by being more representative of the state’s votes, but not giving away our electoral college votes to the other states.

Right now, the 15 “states and jurisdictions” that have passed the national popular vote compact, according to the national popular vote website are:

Washington D.C.
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
Rhode Island

Today’s roll call vote down mostly along party lines, with two Democrats breaking with their party to vote with Republicans against the scheme.

You can read the full text of the bill by clicking here.

Sen. Shenna Bellows (D – Kennebec) YES
Sen. Russell Black (R – Franklin) NO
Sen. Cathy Breen (D – Cumberland) YES
Sen. Michael Carpenter (D – Aroostook) YES
Sen. Everett “Brownie” Carson (D – Cumberland) YES
Sen. Justin Chenette (D – York) YES
Sen. Ben Chipman (D – Cumberland) YES
Sen. Ned Claxton (D – Androscoggin) YES
Sen. Scott Cyrway (R – Kennebec) NO
Sen. Paul Davis (R – Kennebec) NO
Sen. Susan Deschambault (D – York) YES
Sen. Bill Diamond (D – Cumberland) NO
Sen. James Dill (D – Penobscot) YES
Sen. Dana Dow (R – Lincoln) NO
Sen. Brad Farrin (R – Somerset) NO
Sen. Bob Foley (R – York) NO
Sen. Geoff Gratwick (D – Penobscot) YES
Sen. Stacey Guerin (R – Penobscot) NO
Sen. James Hamper (R – Oxford) NO
Sen. Erin Herbig (D – Waldo) NO
Sen. Troy Jackson (D – Aroostook) YES
Sen. Lisa Keim (R – Oxford) NO
Sen. Mark Lawrence (D – York) YES
Sen. Nate Libby (D – Androscoggin) YES
Sen. Louis Luchini (D – Hancock) YES
Sen. Rebecca Millett (D – Cumberland) YES
Sen. David Miramant (D – Knox) YES
Sen. Marianne Moore (R – Washington) NO
Sen. Matt Pouliot (R – Kennebec) NO
Sen. Kim Rosen (R – Hancock) NO
Sen. Heather Sanborn (D – Cumberland) YES
Sen. Linda Sanborn (D – Cumberland) YES
Sen. Jeff Timberlake (R – Androscoggin) NO
Sen. Eloise Vitelli (D – Sagadahoc) YES
Sen. David Woodsome (R – York) NO

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