Theoretically, a bill or nomination could pass out of the Senate with the support of senators representing only 16.2 percent of the population. If the two senators from the 25 smallest states agreed to support a bill — and Vice President Pence concurred — the senators from the other 25 states and the 270 million people they represent are out of luck. (Residents of D.C., of course, are always out of luck.)

Generally speaking, though, that’s not how it works. Big states and small states come from both sides of the political aisle and can vary widely in constitution, meaning that Wyoming and Rhode Island don’t often land on the same side of political issues. What’s more, the nature of the Senate is that its members generally pride themselves on the comity of their body. For a long time, that comity has been powered in part by the filibuster, providing a way for any senator to hold up legislation — and requiring a super-majority to get that member to be quiet.

With criticism flying about the electoral college, here's what you need to know about our system for electing the president a