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Alternative view: National Popular Vote would amplify Maine voices and empower small states

Any Mainer interested in amplifying the state’s role in electing a president, and empowering disenfranchised voters, should get behind the National Popular Vote movement. They should loudly and strongly urge state legislators to pass the National Popular Vote bill and make Maine the 13th jurisdiction to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Here’s why: 

If you live in Maine and support conservatives, your vote has made little difference in the outcome of any presidential election since 1988, when the Bush-Quayle ticket won Maine’s popular vote, and with it, the state’s four electoral votes. That’s because the Democrat ticket typically wins the majority of Maine’s popular vote – and with it, all or nearly all of its four electoral votes.

In fact, over the last seven presidential elections – 1992 to 2016 – 1,527,248 Mainers cast their votes for the GOP ticket. And those efforts have produced exactly one Republican electoral vote – the one Donald Trump received in 2016 for outpolling Hillary Clinton in the second congressional district. Trump himself has wondered aloud at the wisdom of making five trips to the state in order to snag that one electoral vote, which made no difference one way or another in his 74-vote electoral victory.

Clearly, no one can make a rational argument that the current system empowers Maine, or conservative voters in Maine. As things currently stand, Maine voters control just those four electoral votes. But under a National Popular Vote, they become powerful participants in deciding the disposition of 270 electoral votes – enough to elect a president of the United States.

That’s because the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact requires a candidate to win the most popular votes across all 50 states and the District of Columbia in order to be awarded 270 electoral votes. So, it stands to reason that campaigns would be compelled to go after every voter in Maine, and every other state – red, blue, or purple – small or large – urban, rural, or suburban.

In other words, no more campaign “fly-over” territory. Under a National Popular Vote, every voter in every state would be powerful, sought after, and politically relevant in every presidential election.

Today, presidential campaigns virtually ignore 38 states (and 70 percent of the U.S. population) because they predictably fall into either the red or blue columns every four years. Why, candidates reason, should we waste precious resources in states where we are so far ahead we can’t possibly lose – or so far behind we can’t possibly win?

Instead, campaigns devote virtually all of their time, money, and grassroots organizing to just 12 so-called “battleground” states like Ohio, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Florida, with a propensity to swing their prized electoral votes from one party to another.

Shortly after the 2016 election, Trump – who bested Clinton 48.4 percent to 46.5 percent in the 12-state battleground popular vote – acknowledged that he would have greatly broadened his campaign under a National Popular Vote system:

“I would have done even better in the election, if that’s possible, if the winner was based on the popular vote, but would have campaigned differently,” he said shortly after winning the 2016 contest. “I would have won the popular vote if I had campaigned for the popular vote….”

Here’s the bottom line. It’s time for Maine to pass the National Popular Vote bill, join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, and give every voter in Maine a powerful new voice in delivering 270 electoral votes to the next president of the United States.

Eleven states and the District of Columbia – with a combined total of 172 electoral votes – are already on board. When Colorado Governor Jared Polis signs the National Popular Vote bill, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact will be just 84 electoral votes short of being enacted.

This is an idea whose time has come.

Note: The view of the author does not reflect the view of The Maine Heritage Policy Center.