The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact public hearing was scheduled for Monday, Jan. 8, at 10 a.m. on the fourth floor of the State House. I left Cooper on Sunday morning to beat the snow as best I could. It snowed from Newport on, but I had my studded snows put on before Thanksgiving, and I arrived unscathed at the Senator Inn and Spa in the early afternoon. Fortunately, they had a room cleaned and ready, and I was reminded of the advice the late Rep. Theone Look gave me some thirty years ago- the Senator was the place to stay when in Augusta on legislative business- they took good care of you. I availed myself of the pool, hot tub, and steam bath and was well-rested for the hearing Monday morning.
The concrete 3-tier garage near the Politburo-like Cross office building was unexpectedly closed, but I was early enough to get a general parking spot next to the Politburo. I traipsed through the tunnel and went through security (a post 9/11 unfortunate but sadly necessary addition to Statehouse customs). I was reminded of my infamous 1999 machete vs watermelon political theatre in the Hall of Flags (the $50 million public lands bond sponsored by then State Senator Chellie Pingree was green on the outside and red on the inside.) No one is taking a machete through security these days…the sharpest objects I would have in the hearing were my pen and my tongue.
I signed up to testify and did a short TV spot for Fox 22 and ABC 7, previewing my testimony about how the NPV would disenfranchise every right-of-center voter in the 2nd CD. I was pleased to see it on the news Monday night and the lack of a coherent response from proponents.
I was the first opposition speaker called at about 12:15. The NPV hearing started late because the Veterans and Legal Affairs Committee was first holding a confirmation hearing for the Maine National Guard Adjutant General nominee, Dianne Dunn. I knew General Dunn from her time as Chief of Staff to UM/UMM President Joan Ferrini-Mundy (I called her President JFM). Diane had done a good job trying to flesh out what exactly UMM’s identity and role would be as UM’s “regional campus.”
It was the first legislative hearing I have attended in person without a tie and jacket, but I figured, as a retired professor and very recent widower, I could get away with a more comfortable business/Maine casual look, so I went with khakis, a brown knit polo, and snow boots.
My testimony was reasonably well received, especially the points about disenfranchisement and the constitutional requirement for Congressional approval under the Compact Clause. The hearing room was packed- more than 100 people submitted testimony, and more than 80 spoke on Monday. 2nd CD disapproval and general constitutional conservative displeasure were very much in evidence, as were proponent claims of “bipartisanship,” “one person-one vote,” and “insurrection.” Oddly, Secretary of State Shenna Bellows, who is in charge of Maine elections and ballot access, chose not to show up or offer testimony, possibly because Rep. John Andrews, who has filed papers to impeach her, is on the VLA committee and could have asked her questions (as he did me).
Here are some comments from Washington County citizens:
Beth Johnson, Alexander: I am opposed to this bill, and it should not be considered for Maine.
Melodie Greene, Calais: Without the consent of Congress, it would be unlawful, according to Article I, Section 10, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution…It is too politically partisan…Not only would LD 1578 disenfranchise many voters in Maine’s 2nd Congressional District, but one could argue that the national winner-take-all method also disenfranchises too many people (as would the NPV) and that a district-by-district method would be a fairer way to count votes nationally…not only would Maine’s 2nd Congressional District’s political clout be diminished as part of the NPV’s Interstate Compact, the entire State of Maine’s political clout could also be diminished if LD 1578 was adopted, especially if it becomes a first step towards abolishing our representative form of government…By diminishing states’ rights and the strength of countervailing voices in our diverse country’s “marketplace of ideas,” the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact could, in the long run, transform the dynamism of our (currently) representative democracy into—not a direct democracy but—a stagnating socialist state.
Laura Lander, Machias: I think Maine and Mainers, and indeed the whole country, would benefit from the National Popular Vote because it makes every voter in every state relevant while still working within the Electoral College. It is also nonpartisan. We have had enough presidents who significantly lose the popular vote yet win the Electoral College. That system, as it is being employed, no longer effectively serves its original purpose. Please support LD 1578. Thank you.
Karl Pingree, East Machias: There is no better way to empower each and every voter in this and every other state than to give everyone a vote that has an equal share in making the final decision. It is, in the end, far more democratic (note: small d) than electing our most important officeholder by state blocs (48 states) or congressional district blocs (Maine & Nebraska.) While this could easily become yet another Republican/Democrat issue, I urge you to look at this taking the long view. The compact will only take effect once enough states representing over half of the electoral votes have signed on. That will clearly not happen until Joe Biden and Donald Trump are in the rearview mirror of presidential politics. It is ever so important to cast your vote on this issue, realizing that there is no elected federal (or state) office that does not follow the “one person - one vote” principle except how we elect our president. This is our chance to change that. I urge all members to vote in the affirmative on LD1578.
The path to defeating the NPV in Maine involves convincing some 2nd CD House Democrats to oppose it because their constituents do. I think Representative Supica, the VLA House Chair and an NPV sponsor, was feeling the heat at the hearing. Calais Rep. Anne Perry needs to hear from her constituents,
You can watch the hearing and read the submitted testimony from all across the State at https://legislature.maine.gov/audio/#437?event=90002&startDate=2024-01-0... at the LD1578 January 8th Public Hearing Play and testimony tabs.
Jon Reisman is an economist and policy analyst who retired from the University of Maine at Machias after 38 years. He resides on Cathance Lake in Cooper, where he is a Selectman and a Statler and Waldorf intern. Mr. Reisman’s views are his own and he welcomes comments as letters to the editor here, or to him directly via email at [email protected].