The Maine Senate on Tuesday backed an interstate effort to circumvent the Electoral College during a presidential election, voting 19-16 to pass a National Popular Vote bill.
The bill, sponsored by Maine Senate President Troy Jackson (D), will head to the state’s House, where it is expected to pass. Democratic Gov. Janet Mills (D) hasn’t yet stated whether she would support it.
To date, 14 states and Washington, D.C., have enacted National Popular Vote legislation, which requires all of that state’s electoral votes to be given to whichever presidential candidate wins the popular vote nationwide, rather than the candidate who won the vote in just that state.
The legislation would take effect only when similar laws are enacted by states possessing 270 electoral votes ― a majority of the country’s 538 electoral votes. The 15 jurisdictions across the country that have enacted the legislation into law as of Tuesday possess 189 electoral votes.
There have long been calls from both Republicans and Democrats to abolish the Electoral College. Critics of the institution say the body provides an unfair advantage to Republicans and marginalizes the vast majority of minorities.
President Donald Trump’s election in 2016 sparked new and more high-profile interest in abolishing the Electoral College, including from some 2020 Democratic presidential candidates. Trump lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton in 2016 by nearly 3 million but won the presidency because he had more votes in the Electoral College.
Conservative Maine lawmakers who oppose the National Popular Vote legislation say it would deter presidential candidates from visiting smaller states during their campaigns since they have fewer voters compared to larger swing states.
Former Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) has been a vocal critic of the bill, facing backlash in February after claiming that it would silence “white people” if enacted.
LePage, who has come under fire over past racist comments, warned that “minorities” would have more control if more bills meant to ensure the president is elected by the national popular vote are passed.