© 2024 Maine Public | Registered 501(c)(3) EIN: 22-3171529
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Scroll down to see all available streams.

Gov. Janet Mills allows National Popular Vote bill to become law

Gov. Janet Mills delivers her State of the Budget address, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023, at the State House in Augusta, Maine.
Robert F. Bukaty
Gov. Janet Mills delivers her State of the Budget address, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023, at the State House in Augusta, Maine.

Gov. Janet Mills said Monday that she will allow a "national popular vote" bill to become law without her signature.

The bill will add Maine to the 16 states plus the District of Columbia that have pledged to award their Electoral College votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the popular vote nationwide. The measure, LD 1578, passed the House by a single vote and passed the Senate by a vote of 18-12 earlier this month. Maine's Constitution gives governors three options for dealing with bills passed by the Legislature: sign them into law, veto them or allow them to become law without his or her signature.

The National Popular Vote compact would only take effect when participating states account for at least 270 electoral votes, which is the minimum needed to win the presidency. Even with Maine's participation, the compact is still 61 electors short of that margin.

In a statement, Mills said she understands concerns raised by opponents that candidates might pay less attention to smaller, rural states like Maine in a popular vote scenario. But Mills, a Democrat, said she sees merit to both sides of the debate. Republicans voted unanimously against the bill in both the House and the Senate.

"While I recognize concerns about presidential candidates spending less time in Maine, it is also quite possible that candidates will spend more time in every state when every vote counts equally, and I struggle to reconcile the fact that a candidate who has fewer actual votes than their opponent can still become President of the United States," Mills said in a statement. "Absent a ranked choice voting circumstance, it seems to me that the person who wins the most votes should become the President. To do otherwise seemingly runs counter to the democratic foundations of our country."

Mills added that because the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact has not yet reached 270 delegates and that it would not be in effect this election, the bill that passed the Legislature is not irreversible and that she preferred to allow the national debate to play out.

Two of the past four presidents — George W. Bush and Donald Trump — won the White House despite not receiving support from the majority of voters in those elections.