On December 19th, the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, the electoral college voted to officially elect Donald Trump. Many are questioning whether or not the electoral college should even still be a valid system. Should it just be left to the popular vote to decide? To fully understand this, we have to look at why the whole system was enacted in the first place.
First of all, our founding fathers were afraid of a direct election for the presidency. They were worried that an authoritarian leader would be able to sway the public and take power so the Electoral College was supposed to act as a safeguard from this very event. The second reason for the Electoral College's birth was to give some extra power to the smaller states because each state has the same number of electoral votes as they have representatives in Congress, leveraging the playing field between states like California and much smaller states.
As far as how the electors are chosen, there are generally two ways that this happens. Either they are nominated by their state party committee or they campaign for the spot. The constitution actually does not give any special qualifications for someone to be an elector but it does say that they cannot be a member of Congress or someone who has actively rebelled against the United States.
From there, the electors are expected to vote how their party votes although this is not always the case. Forty-eight states follow the winner-take-all system where all the electors have to vote for the candidate who won the popular vote in their state. However, in Maine and Nebraska, the votes are divided up by congressional districts. So, when you are voting for the new President of the United States, you are actually voting for an elector who will (hopefully) vote the same way you did.
So do we still need the electoral college? Some believe that we still need the Electoral College because it protects the smaller states and others feel that it undermines democracy as a whole.
Regardless of whether or not you like the Electoral College system, the chances of it changing are slim to none. To modify or abolish, it would require a constitutional amendment that has to be ratified by 3/4 of the states and as you can imagine, this is no easy feat. But who knows? Change happens every day and we have another four years until the next election. Only time will tell.