Inside Augusta

Bill to adopt national popular vote compact fails in Maine House

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The Maine House voted to reject a bill Thursday that would bind the state’s Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote. After LD 816, sponsored by Senate President Troy Jackson, was advanced in the Senate by a 19-16 vote on May 14, its vote in the House was delayed for several sessions before it was considered Thursday. The delay was an early indication that the majority House Democratic caucus may be fractured on the issue.

Some House Democrats sought to advance the minority “Ought to Pass as Amended” report from the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee with a new amendment that awarded two of the state’s four Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote but retained the current method of awarding the state’s remaining electors to the popular vote winner in the first and second congressional districts.

The motion to advance the minority report failed by a 76-66 vote before another motion was made to reconsider. The motion to reconsider also failed, this time by a vote of 84-48. The House then moved to accept the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee’s bipartisan majority “Ought Not to Pass” recommendation, meaning the two chambers are now in non-concurrence.

Thus, the bill heads back to the Senate where the body may insist on its initial motion to accept the minority report or recede and concur with the motion taken by the House, effectively killing the bill. In addition, the chambers could remain in non-concurrence on the bill, meaning it would die between chambers when the First Regular Session of the 129th Maine Legislature concludes.

Despite its support in Maine Senate, LD 816 received a majority “Ought Not to Pass” report out of the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee in March, with Democrats joining Republican members of the committee in opposing the bill. Twenty-one House Democrats voted with Republicans on Thursday, eight of whom represent voters in Maine’s second congressional district.

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact already represents 189 electoral votes and has been signed into law by 14 states and Washington D.C. The compact needs to obtain an additional 81 electoral votes from states to take effect. Unfortunately, the national popular vote movement’s goal is not out of reach. The Nevada state senate recently voted to move forward with the compact, but Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak vetoed the measure on Thursday, the same day the Maine House rejected LD 816.

“After thoughtful deliberation, I have decided to veto Assembly Bill 186,” Sisolak said in a statement following his veto. “Once effective, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact could diminish the role of smaller states like Nevada in national electoral contests and force Nevada’s electors to side with whoever wins the nationwide popular vote, rather than the candidate Nevadans choose.”

Similarly, its adoption in Maine would diminish the voice of all Mainers, particularly voters in rural Maine.

If the compact were to pass in both Maine and Nevada this year, the national popular vote movement would need only 71 electoral votes to meet the 270 vote threshold required to determine the presidency. According to National Popular Vote, the compact has been passed in at least one legislative chamber in nine states that possess a total of 82 electoral votes, one vote more than what is needed for the compact to take effect. The compact has also been introduced in all 50 states. A tool created by the National Conference of State Legislatures shows that national popular vote legislation has been introduced in 23 states in 2019.

As noted above, the bill faces additional votes in the Senate and potentially the House, so we cannot yet declare victory on defeating LD 816. However, the House’s action on Thursday creates a new hurdle the bill must clear before it could reach the governor’s desk, and according to the Bangor Daily News, Governor Mills has not yet taken a position on it.

About Jacob Posik

Jacob Posik, of Turner, is the director of communications at The Maine Heritage Policy Center (MHPC) and the editor of The Maine Wire. He formerly served as a policy analyst at MHPC. Posik can be reached at jposik@mainepolicy.org.

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