Local legislators were nearly evenly split on a bill that calls for the election of the president of the United States to be decided by a different system than the current electoral college system.

The House voted 96-50 Feb. 2 to kill the legislation. Now it goes to the Senate.

For the bill to survive it would have to be approved by the Senate and then the House would have to vote again on the matter and support it.

The House voted to reject the recommendation of the Legislature’s Legal and Veterans Affairs Committee for LD 56 to be approved.

The bill would adopt an interstate compact to elect the president by the national popular vote. The compact would call for the candidates who got the most votes nationally to get all the electoral votes of the compact states. The compact would go into effect, according to the bill, when states with a combined 270 electoral votes (a majority) adopted the compact.

Voting for the bill locally were Democratic Reps. Edward Mazurek of Rockland, Joan Welsh of Rockport, House Speaker Hannah Pingree of North Haven, Elizabeth Miller of Somerville, Wendy Pieh of Bremen, Veronica Magnan of Searsport and John Piotti of Unity.

Voting against the measure were Reps. Chuck Kruger, D-Thomaston; Andrew O’Brien, D-Lincolnville; Wes Richardson, R-Warren; Jayne Crosby Giles, R-Belfast; Michael Thibodeau, R-Winterport; and Jonathan McKane, R-Newcastle.

Mazurek said he supported the bill to send a message that the electoral college system is outdated and needs to be replaced. He said the electoral college system allows a few large states to dominate the presidential elections.

Welsh said she received many e-mails from constituents in support of the legislation. She also said she voted for it because she supports one person, one vote.

The number of electors each state has is based on the combined number of U.S. representatives and U.S. senators the state has. Maine has four electoral votes. In nearly all states, a candidate who wins the majority of votes gets all the electoral votes of that state, regardless of the margin of victory. In Maine, the votes can be split by congressional district if different candidates get the majority of votes in the southern and northern districts.

Mazurek said the electoral college was established by the founding fathers because they did not have faith that the general populace could be trusted to elect the president.

Kruger said he had no strong opinions on the bill. He said he voted against it because the U.S. Constitution specifies how the country can make changes in the election process for the president and this compact is not the way cited in the Constitution.

Piotti said the current system is outdated and he hoped passage of the legislation would put pressure on Congress to act.

Richardson said he considered the bill to be unconstitutional, since changes to the election process must be done by a two-thirds majority vote of both the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate, and then by three quarters of the state legislatures. The other option is by a constitutional convention that must also be called by two-thirds of both houses of Congress and three quarters of the state legislatures.

Giles also cited the Constitution in her opposition to the bill. She maintained that the electoral college system benefits lower-population states like Maine. She said this stems from people being upset that Democrat Al Gore lost the presidency in 2000, even though he had more votes nationwide than Republican George W. Bush.

Thibodeau said the current system gives Mainers the best opportunity to be heard.

The state Senate had not voted on the measure by the morning of Feb. 3.

State Sen. Christopher Rector, R-Thomaston, said he will oppose the bill when it comes before the Senate on several grounds. Those include the constitutional question and his belief that this would further marginalize small states like Maine. Rector said he also likes Maine’s system of being able to have the electoral votes divided by congressional districts.

State Sen. A. David Trahan, R-Waldoboro, also said he would oppose the bill.