Committee Divided on National Popular Vote Bill

UPDATE: At least 100 people submitted testimony in early March to the Committee On Veterans And Legal Affair’s hearing for LD 816Sen. Peter Jackson (D-Aroostook), whom sponsored the bill (co-sponsors), argued that because so many people feel left out of the political process, it’s important that every American’s vote should count equally.

Jackson went on to support his claim by stating a candidate won’t even bother with a state if they’re way ahead or behind in the polls and small rural states are ignored completely. Jackson claimed that several public opinion polls support the move to a National Presidential Popular vote, but gave no specific citations

Also testifying for LD 816, Rep. Nichole Grohoski (D-Ellsworth) gave two reasons for why she supports the move. Grohoski first claimed that the way electors are distributed between the states is because of a compromise with former slave-holding states and it’s foolish to adhere to century’s old reasoning. Representative Grohoski added that she believes democracy is the best form of government and since her identity as an American is more important than her identity as a Mainer, she’d prefer a National Presidential Popular Vote system.

Common Cause sent National Electoral Reform Coordinator Pam Wilmot to speak in support of LD 816 by first explaining how the new system would work and which states had already agreed to support the plan. Wilmot argued a president winning the election despite loosing the popular vote proves the system is broken. Wilmot explained why he believes voters from low population states have too much influence on the presidential election. It’s wrong, adds Wilmot, that Presidential elections are decided by shifting “battleground” states with most voters being looked over entirely.

Echoing those sentiments, The League of Women Voter’s John Brautigam stated their position is that the Presidency is a national office and so every person’s vote should be equal.

Speaking against the bill, Rep. Richard Pickett (R-Dixfield) stated that under this bill a candidate could win an election carrying just a handful of cities and would have no need to visit New England, let alone Maine. Pickett argued that the founding fathers built a constitutional republic, not a democracy. They did so, according to Pickett, because they feared a minority group would be too susceptible to tyranny under direct democracy. Pickett believes that if LD 816 passes, we’re inviting tyranny upon our small rural state at the hands large urban population centers.

The Maine Heritage Policy Center’s policy analyst, Adam Crepeau and Eric Brakey of the Free Maine Campaign added similar testimony emphasizing the nation as a republic, not a democracy, and a significant loss in influence on the presidential election, with Brakey estimating that Maine’s statistical importance would be half what it is today.

Crepeau, and others, defended Maine’s current system of having two electors awarded to the state-wide popular vote winner and one elector to the popular vote winner of each congressional district as the fairest way of distribution and should be a model for other states.

The March 4th work session ended with a split committee vote and a divided report is expected for the legislature.

Posted 3/5/2019

Both LD 418 & LD 816 were near identical bills.  The Veterans & Legal Affairs Committee voted to not pass LD 418.  But they disagreed on LD 816 and a divided report is expected for the legislature.