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Maine Democrats Called Out
Trent England • May 31, 2024

“Those in glass houses should not throw stones.” That old saying is a warning against hypocrisy, something certain Mane Democrats should consider after forcing their state into the National Popular Vote interstate compact (NPV). Some of these Maine officials are irate over a scheme hatched by a few Nebraska Republicans, and threatening to respond in kind. The flap is the focus of a recent column in The Hill by Jasper Hendricks, director of Democrats for the Electoral College.

The Constitution lets state legislators decide how to represent their state in presidential elections. In most states, presidential electors are chosen altogether based on a statewide election (called a “winner-takes-all” system). However, Maine and Nebraska elect one presidential elector from each Congressional District and then elect the remaining two statewide.

Hendricks explains what this means in 2024:

Politically, Nebraska is reliably Republican. Maine has become reliably Democratic. But each state has one “swing” congressional district. By dividing up presidential electors, each state gets a little extra attention and its voters are arguably represented more accurately.

In the last two elections, Trump lost Maine but won Maine’s Second Congressional District, thus receiving one of the state’s electoral votes. In 2008 and 2020, Democrats lost Nebraska but, like Trump in Maine, won Nebraska’s Second Congressional District and received its single electoral vote.

Predictably, some Republicans seek to curry favor with Trump by demanding that Nebraska stop splitting up its electoral votes, which would likely shift an electoral vote from tossup to Trump. But it doesn’t take Sun Tzu to understand that, if Nebraska’s Republican-controlled Legislature goes along with this, Maine’s Democrat-controlled Legislature will likely do the same to cancel it out. Rep. Maureen Terry (D), Maine’s House Majority Leader, has already promised to do just that in retaliation.

Hendricks points out that these same politicians “have already surrendered the moral high ground by forcing [NPV] through the Maine Legislature. He explains four reasons to oppose the interstate compact scheme:

First, it’s unseemly to change election rules for no better reason than partisan advantage. That’s true in Nebraska, Maine, and everywhere else.

Second, the Electoral College has built-in protections that benefit Americans regardless of political party. The state-by-state process makes it essentially impossible for a candidate to win with a small plurality or support in just one region of our vast, diverse nation. These are the same reasons that explain why most large democracies also have two-step elections at the national level.

Third, the current process has helped to incorporate minority voices into American politics. This used to be common knowledge. A young Sen. John F. Kennedy defended the Electoral College against a proposed constitutional amendment in 1959. A generation later, civil rights leaders like Vernon Jordan did the same thing. They recognized that the Electoral College was forcing the Democratic Party to pay more attention to the interests of Black Americans and other minorities. The same is evident today, including in Republican appeals to Hispanic voters.

Finally, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact would lead to a constitutional crisis worse than anything experienced after the 2020 election. All three of the law professors who thought up the idea have expressed concerns about whether the compact would really work. As currently drafted, it ignores the fact that state election laws are all different, and it provides no guidance for recounts, disagreements among the states, or other possible conflicts.

Each of these points is true. In the long run, the Electoral College serves the interests of all of us. This year, we’re fiercely divided based on the candidates and causes we support. But when we look beyond the next election to the next decades or even farther, all Americans stand to benefit from politics that are more inclusive and stable. Tipping the scales in that direction is something that benefits all Americans.