AUGUSTA — Gov. Janet Mills on Monday allowed a proposal for Maine to join a group of states hoping to choose U.S. presidents based on the national popular vote to become law without her signature.

More than a dozen states already have joined the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which seeks to ensure that the presidential candidate who wins the most popular votes nationwide is elected president.

When a state joins the compact, it pledges that all of its electoral votes will be given to whichever presidential candidate wins the popular vote nationwide, rather than the candidate who won the vote in just that state.

The compact will only be activated after enough states join to control 270 Electoral College votes, the minimum number needed to win the presidency. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 16 states and the District of Columbia have enacted national popular vote laws and have committed 205 electoral votes so far.

With Maine’s bill now becoming law, the state’s four Electoral College votes will be added to that pool.

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


The bill was sent to Mills after it was enacted on a one-vote margin in the House of Representatives. The Senate approved enactment on an 18-12 vote.

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

During a heated debate on the House floor this month, supporters argued that the presidency is a unique national office that should be elected by popular vote, rather than by a handful of swing states that can dominate the Electoral College system.

Opponents argued that the compact was an attempt to change the election process without formally amending the U.S. Constitution, and that joining it would silence the voices of rural voters who would be overlooked as candidates focus on winning support in larger cities.

In a statement Monday, Mills said there was merit to both arguments but that she “would like this important nationwide debate to continue and so I will allow this bill to become law without my signature.”

“While I recognize concerns about presidential candidates spending less time in Maine, it is also quite possible that candidates will spend more time in every state when every vote counts equally, and I struggle to reconcile the fact that a candidate who has fewer actual votes than their opponent can still become president of the United States,” Mills said.

“Absent a ranked choice voting circumstance, it seems to me that the person who wins the most votes should become the president. To do otherwise seemingly runs counter to the democratic foundations of our country.”

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