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Maine lawmakers split on changing way president gets elected

May 31, 2019

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — The Maine House has rejected a proposal to join a group of states pledging to award Electoral College tallies to the national popular vote winner in presidential elections, putting the chamber at odds with state Senate, which narrowly approved the measure.

The House voted 76-66 Thursday against the proposal that’s aimed at sidestepping a constitutional amendment that would be necessary to institute a national popular vote. Now the proposal goes back to the Senate, which approved the measure, 19-16, two weeks ago.

Democratic Gov. Janet Mills hasn’t taken a stance on the bill.

Popular vote supporters say it’s time to replace the Electoral College, for which votes are linked to the size of each state’s congressional delegation. Supporters say a popular vote would shift focus from swing states, while rural opponents say it would give more influence to larger states.

President Donald Trump won the 2016 election with 304 electoral votes even though Democrat Hillary Clinton had nearly 3 million more votes.

To date, 14 states including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Vermont have joined the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Governors in New Mexico, Delaware and Colorado signed legislation this year, while Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak vetoed a proposal. Oregon is considering legislation.

The compact would kick in only if enough states sign on to account for 270 electoral votes, the threshold for winning a presidential election.

State law allows Maine to split votes based on congressional districts. The state has four electoral votes. Nebraska is also allowed to split votes.

In 2016, Maine split its electoral votes for the first time, with three going to Clinton, who won the statewide vote and the 1st Congressional District. Trump won a single electoral vote by collecting the most votes in the 2nd Congressional District.

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