Maine Legislature Passes Bill To Join National Popular Vote Interstate Compact

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Maine Legislature has passed legislation that would add the state to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC), an agreement between a group of states that have pledged to award their Electoral College votes to the winner of the popular vote upon the compact’s activation.

Currently, 16 states and Washington D.C. — totalling 205 Electoral College votes — are members of the compact. If the legislation advanced out of the Maine Legislature today becomes law, that number would rise to 209. 

Under the NPVIC, member states would award their Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of their own state’s results. The compact is only activated once enough states have joined to make up 270 votes, the necessary threshold to win the Electoral College.

It is unlikely the United States will ever abolish the Electoral College itself in favor of a national popular vote. That would require a constitutional amendment and extensive support from Republican legislators who largely oppose the idea — with just one exception, the compact has only ever been passed in states that had  Democratic trifectas at the time. However the NPVIC circumvents this roadblock, by maintaining the Electoral College itself, but changing how electors are chosen. The compact is possible because Article II of the U.S. Constitution gives state legislatures exclusive control over the method used to award electoral votes. 

If activated, the compact would drastically alter U.S. presidential elections by ensuring the candidate with who receives the most votes wins the presidency, as opposed to the current system where this is not guaranteed since candidates can win the popular vote, but lose the Electoral College. Five presidential elections in U.S. history featured a candidate who won the popular vote, but lost the presidency because of the Electoral College, including two this century: in 2000 and 2016. A popular vote compact would likely impact how candidates campaign, the states they visit, where they spend their money and how many voters turn out. 

Nearly two-thirds of Americans support a national popular vote, including nearly half of Republicans. The most recent state to join the compact is Minnesota, which did so last May. After passing the House on March 5 and the Senate on March 13, the bill now heads to governor for her signature.

Read the bill here.

Track the status of the bill here.

This story and headline were updated on March 13, 2024 at 2:07 p.m. EDT to reflect the Maine Senate’s passage of the bill.