Maine Could Divide Electoral College

People who live here say there are two different Maines - the liberal, populous and wealthy southern coast and the conservative, sparsely populated and poorer north.

Those different Maines could split its four electoral college (search) votes by awarding one candidate three votes and the other candidate the one remaining. That lone electoral vote could determine the election: in 2000, George W. Bush (search) defeated Al Gore 271-266, barely collecting the 270 electoral votes required for victory.

Under state law, Maine awards two electoral votes to the statewide winner and one apiece to the winner in each of its congressional districts. The state has not split its electoral votes since adopting that system in 1969.

Four years ago, Gore won 49 percent of the statewide vote to 44 percent for Bush. In the southern 1st District, Gore won by a comfortable 27,675 votes. To the north, though, he won by only 5,660 votes in the 2nd District.

Bush visited Bangor last month, and his wife, Laura, attended a rally in Lewiston, both in the 2nd District. Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards (search) has visited twice, and his wife, Elizabeth, plans to be in the 2nd District on Wednesday.

State polls show Bush and Sen. John Kerry (search) locked in a close race that's tightest in the northern district. Neither campaign, however, will acknowledge competing for just one electoral vote.

"I don't think they would be sending the president to Bangor if they didn't think they had a shot at all four votes," said Christian Potholm, a Republican political scientist at Bowdoin College.

Jesse Derris, Kerry campaign spokesman in Maine, said, "I don't know that they like the fact that Bush is only speaking to certain voters in Maine."

Pursuing a one-vote strategy might be pointless. Tony Corrado, a Colby College professor, said the distinctions between Maine's regions don't take into account its economy statewide.

"The economic concerns will tend to be the principal basis for most voters' decisions, and that favors Kerry," Corrado said.

And then there is Ralph Nader. An independent candidate, Nader took 5.7 percent of the statewide vote in 2000 as the Green Party (search) nominee. This year, polls show him with support from 3 to 4 percent of those surveyed.

Only one other state - Nebraska, a rock-solid Republican state - splits its electoral votes. Colorado residents will decide on Election Day whether to award electoral votes in proportion with the popular vote.