Currently the United States is the example of president elections performed indirectly with an electoral college. The Electoral College consists of 538 popularly elected representatives (“electors”) representing 50 states and one federal district (D.C.), who formally elect the President and Vice President of the United States.
Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution specifies number of electors entitled to every state (from 3 electors for small states up to 55 for California) and that each state is free to decide how its electors should be chosen. Number of a state’s entitled electors is equal to its total Congressional representation (in both houses); District of Columbia has three electors and non-state territories having zero electors. Normally, the electors cast all their votes for the candidate who won in the popular vote held in their respective states, however in some states there are no legal restrictions for that and, technically, electors can vote differently from the results of popular vote.
Indirect election of the President and Vice President of the United States is based on constitutional theory that while the Congress is directly (popularly) elected by the people, while the Senate and the President and Vice President, as the executives of a federation of independent states, should be elected on state-basis (e.g. through votes of states not public).
There are number of arguments supporting the Electoral College. First of all, this system was selected due to the federal nature of the United States, giving each state the freedom, to design its own election legislation. Some proponents of this system believe that, at the federal level, aggregated opinion of a small state should have greater attention, than opinion of equal in quantity portion of a large state. At the same time it supports two party system, which has been the basis for U.S. stability for long time. Other reason for the Electoral College is that it prevents winning of the candidate by simple winning in very populated areas (e.g. megapolises), which may later impair interests of numerous less populated areas. At the same time all-or-nothing basis of the Electoral College system, gives critical edge to the minority groups, therefore encouraging candidates to appeal to a wide variety of such minorities and interest groups.
Still, the system has some flaws: while candidates often pay much attention to smaller states, they tend to completely ignore larger ones. For instance Democrats pay minor attention to Texas, as its appears to be impractical taking into account all-or-nothing basis, ditto Republicans for example in Massachusetts.
There is, however, a practical way to reform the system, without even amending the Constitution. States, having broad powers in choosing the way the electors are selected, could reform their state election statutes, adopting the system used for decades in Maine (1972) and in Nebraska (1992). This states give two electoral votes to the candidate winning popular vote and one electoral vote to the candidate who wins the most votes within each congressional district.
Such proportional voting will result in broader campaign, more voters will appreciated, and the risk that dozens of electoral votes would hang on a single county may be eliminated.
At the same time this system does not threatens two-party system, even though smaller parties may receive a few electoral, concentrating on individual districts, as well as federalism which is secured by existence of Electoral College system.