Lawmakers are considering a bill that would award Maine’s four electoral college votes to the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote.

The proposal is designed to reduce the influence of a handful of key battleground states with more weight in the Electoral College, and ensure that the candidate who gets the most total votes nationwide wins the office.

Joining other states in awarding Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote would ensure that votes cast in Maine carry as much weight as those cast in close, swing states that command the most attention from candidates, supporters argue.

“This bill will make every vote equal,” said Rep. Arthur Bell, D-Yarmouth, the measure’s sponsor.

If enough states agree to do the same, the popular vote winner also would be the Electoral College winner.

Two of the last four U.S. presidents, George W. Bush and Donald Trump, won the office despite losing the nationwide popular vote. Hillary Clinton earned about 2.9 million more popular votes than Trump in 2016. Al Gore collected 540,000 more votes nationwide than Bush in 2000.


The effort to reform the election process has taken on an added urgency since Jan. 6, 2021, when Trump and his allies tried to use the Electoral College process to overturn the results and hold onto the presidency.

Despite losing the nationwide popular vote by about 7 million votes to President Joe Biden in 2020, Trump and his allies pressured some state-level officials to “find” enough votes to win their electoral votes and created slates of fake electors in case his allies in Congress could successfully challenge the results in enough key states to turn the election his way. His supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol after he told them to fight the results, disrupting the certification of the election.

Bell’s bill had both bipartisan support and bipartisan opposition in a public hearing at the State House Monday.

Supporters said the proposal, L.D. 1578, would restore faith in U.S. elections by prohibiting a candidate who loses the popular vote from becoming president and preventing legal maneuvering to game the system.

Opponents argued that Maine would be ceding its voice to large cities, like Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City. Both sides argued their preferred system would lead to candidates paying more attention to Maine.

Maine has just four votes in the Electoral College and is one of two states along with Nebraska that don’t award all of their Electoral College votes to the statewide winner. Here, one electoral vote is awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each of the state’s two congressional districts, and two are awarded to the winner of the statewide vote.


The popular vote bill, sponsored Bell and co-sponsored by Sen. Matt Pouliot, R-Augusta, would direct Maine to join an interstate compact to award all electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote, even if that candidate lost in Maine.

So far, 17 states, including California, Illinois, New York, Massachusetts and Vermont, plus the District of Columbia have signed onto the agreement, totaling 205 electoral votes, according to the National Popular Vote, a national nonprofit pushing state-level bills.

A candidate needs 270 out of a possible 538 electoral votes to win the presidency. The compact will take effect once enough states have sign on to add 65 more electoral votes.

It will not take effect for the 2024 election, according to testimony on the bill Monday.

A similar bill was considered in Maine in 2019. It passed the Senate, but ultimately died in the House.

The Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee heard divided testimony on the proposal from both national groups and local residents during a three-hour hearing. The committee will take up the bill in a work session in the coming weeks.


Jacob Posick, the director of legislative affairs for the Maine Policy Center, a right-leaning advocacy group, said the proposal could lead to Maine’s electors being at odds with will of Maine voters.

“Endorsing the compact is to discount the opinions of one’s own constituents, mathematically dilute Maine’s voice and defer to voters of other states to make our decisions for us,” Posik said.

Herb Adams, an adjunct history and political science professor at Southern Maine Community College and a former Democratic state lawmaker, echoed that sentiment. Adams also questioned Maine’s ability to join an interstate compact without the approval of Congress.

Adams supports abolishing the Electoral College and allowing people to directly vote for president. But he said the pending proposal falls short.

“Unfortunately, the bill before you does neither of those things and in fact combines some of the worst flaws of not really doing either one,” Adams said. “The details of (the national public vote) could probably turnout to be more frustrating with the system and diminish the feeling that your own vote really makes a difference.”

Advocates noted that five of the country’s 46 presidents lost the popular vote, including the two in recent elections: Bush and Trump.


And the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol was on the mind of supporters like Jim Walker, of Yarmouth.

“We all watched it in horror on TV,” Walker said. “We need to support a more Democratic process, not one subject to dirty tricks, violence or questionable legal maneuvers.”

Alex Wu, a 17-year-old junior at Scarborough High School, said honoring the national popular vote would help restore faith in democracy among her peers, who don’t feel like their votes really matter.

“At least based on my friends, they would feel like their vote would matter more if they knew their vote was being held on an equal basis to everybody else in the country,” Wu said.

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