Maine joins effort to elect president by popular vote with new law

Maine joins effort to elect president by popular vote with new law

Maine will become the latest state to join an interstate effort to elect the nation’s president by a popular vote, Gov. Janet Mills (D) announced Monday.

Mills said she will allow the legislation to become law without her signature, paving the way for Maine to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, a proposal aimed at guaranteeing the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Under the proposal, each state would give all its electoral votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote for president, no matter how the individual states voted in an election.

The compact, however, is on hold and will not come into play for this November’s election, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

The proposal must receive state pledges that equal at least 270 electoral votes, the number needed to elect a president, Mills said. Sixteen states and Washington, D.C., have already joined the compact, and with the addition of Maine, the law has 209 electoral votes so far, the governor added.

It is not immediately clear if congressional approval is needed for the compact to be implemented.

In explaining her decision, Mills noted that she is aware that enacting the measure is “not irreversible” and will not take effect until at least 61 additional electoral votes approve it.

Mills spent several days considering the bill and hearing arguments from both sides. Ultimately, she said she “struggle[d] to reconcile the fact that a candidate who has fewer actual votes than their opponent” can still become the nation’s commander in chief.

Opponents of the law raised concerns over whether presidential candidates would continue to visit Maine knowing the “chance to win our electoral votes declines,” Mills said. The governor said she is aware of these concerns but noted it is possible candidates could spend more time in every state since every vote would be counted equally.

Supporters of the law noted that two of the last four presidents clinched the Oval Office despite having fewer popular votes.

“Some argue that this measure would dilute the influence of rural voters, although this measure ultimately would provide that each vote carries equal weight, whether the voter is a rural, urban or suburban resident and thus create greater equity among voters,” Mills said. “I see merit to arguments on both sides.”

“Still recognizing that there is merit to both sides of the argument and recognizing that this measure has been the subject of public discussion several times before in Maine, I would like this important nationwide debate to continue, and so I will allow this bill to become law without my signature,” she continued.

Maine is one of only two states to split their electoral votes, the AP noted. It awards two of its four electoral votes to the statewide presidential winner and one each to the winner of each congressional district.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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