You need to remember that you do not live in a democracy.
It's that time again.
Pundits have begun counting how many electoral votes each candidate expects to win, and suddenly -- as they do every four years -- someone notices that a candidate might win the presidency in the Electoral College without winning the popular vote.
After you take a moment for sanctimonious outrage at the situation, you need to remember that you do not live in a democracy.
The United States utilizes democratic methods of voting and governing. However, those democratic practices take place in a federal constitutional republic form of government.
That's why California has one set of laws and Kansas has another, for example.
The states are autonomous on certain issues while still joined by a federal government that binds them together.
That theory of government gave birth to the Electoral College. Two main forces created this electoral system that is misunderstood and maligned.
First and foremost, without it states with smaller populations wouldn't have joined the union and ratified the constitution. Those small states feared being swallowed up or overpowered by more populous states.
Thus the Electoral College was created to straddle the line with representation based on population, but made concessions to smaller states. The number of electors is based on the number of representatives each state has. Rather than stop there, the body was expanded to include an additional elector for each senator from the state, which are evenly distributed despite population.
Thus Kansas will have six electors even though it has only four members of the House of Representatives. California has 53 members of the House. So when they receive the two additional votes for their senators, it represents a far smaller ratio of representation.
According to 2006 population estimates, Kansas has one vote in the Electoral College for every 460,674 people. California has one vote for every 662,864 people. So each Kansan's vote counts for about 50 percent more than each Californian.
That apparent disparity is quelled by the sheer volume of votes the larger state has.
The other reason for the Electoral College is that the framers of the Constitution did not trust majority rule. They feared mobs and ground swells. According to the Alexander Hamilton in the 68th entry of the Federalist Papers -- a group of literary rationalizations and explanations of constitutional ideals -- "The precautions which have been so happily concerted in the system under consideration, promise an effectual security against this mischief. The choice of several, to form an intermediate body of electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of one who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes."
Remember, at the time the Constitution was formulated, only men who owned land were able to vote.
News traveled on horseback and innuendo took the place of information because information was scarce -- innuendo never is.
The Founding Fathers didn't like how easily the masses could move back and forth, and selecting a few men who would then go vote to select a president was seen as far more stable.
The creation of the Electoral College also fought corruption by having a body separate from the elected legislators who were more likely to cut deals to help select a president rather than follow the wishes of the voters. Thus, the Electoral College resembles Congress, but it does not mimic it.
The real issue with the Electoral College developed in the 1800s when states began to use a winner-take-all method of distributing their Electoral College votes. States don't force Representatives or Senators to vote en masse, but they do with the Electoral College.
This is because two candidates from the same party often ran at the same time, and in 1800, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr received an exact split of their party's votes. This situation was seen as imminently repeatable, thus states took on the challenge of solving the problem, thus winner-take-all replaced the proportional voting that created the tie -- which took 36 votes of Congress to break.
There are obvious differences in the country now compared with when the Electoral College came into being.
Information is available everywhere, all the time. All adults -- even women, minorities, renters -- are allowed to vote. Talk of secession is considered a fringe element now rather than a common political debate. We hadn't even fought the Civil War when this body was established. And the parties select their one candidate on their own rather than having a group of Democrats run in the general election.
Regardless of concerns about the system, it was formed to help a young nation thrive despite attempts to overwhelm it with corruption and mob rule.
It has served the nation well even if modern developments have made it less necessary.
Don't look for any significant changes any time soon. It would take a constitutional amendment ratified by 75 percent of the states to change the system.
It is hard to imagine the smaller states agreeing -- even today.