Every four years, as we approach our presidential elections, a ripple of dissent occurs among the politically critical as we collectively remember that the Electoral College exists, and that its members 538 members will decide who our next president is. We remember that our "indirect election" system is awfully strange, and seems outdated to many. But what is an "indirect election," anyway? The actual definition, and the way we select our electors, might catch you by surprise.
An indirect election is, in short, an election wherein winners are elected by selected representatives, rather than by a proportion of all the votes cast (a concept or system best known in the United States as the "popular vote"). In the U.S., our presidential election system is known as the Electoral College, and according to the U.S. Archives, it's more of a process than just a system of election. Members of the Electoral College are called "electors," and each state is allotted a specific number of electors based on the size of their Congressional delegation: one for each member of the House of Representatives (which varies state by state), and two for each senator (each state has two senators.)
To put it very simply, the Electoral College confuses the hell out of a lot Americans. There are a ton of arguments for and against indirect election -- a system in which those who elect the president are selected in a manner that is both constitutionally outlined and not widely known. In truth, electors are chosen very similarly to delegates during the primaries: they are movers and shakers within their parties or the government, and are in some cases (like that of Bill Clinton and Donald Trump Jr.) particularly close to the candidates themselves. In reality, those electors ultimately call the election, though their decision usually reflect their state's overall popular vote.
Our Electoral College system can often seem antiquated at best, and perilously anti-democratic at worst. Regardless of our opinions, however, it's these 538 electors who will cast their votes to elect the next president. The majority of votes will be sworn in accordance with the will of the people, but some faithless electors have threatened to deviate from this oath. If we want to change our electoral system, we must do so through the proper channels, and not only worry about it when the election is this close.