It was designed by the Framers to protect the smaller states from the 'tyranny of the majority' of the larger ones...
To a certain extent, that's true. But the electoral college, as originally envisioned by the framers of the constitution (not the one we have now, which is the product of the 12th Amendment) was designed more as a means of insulating the office of the presidency
from the "tyranny of the majority," not the small states.
A noble goal, but as we saw three years ago, one that has the potential of thwarting the will of the majority of voters; not exactly a democratic ideal.
There are many anti-democratic aspects of the American system. The electoral college is just one.
(That scenario--that the candidate who got the most votes lost the Presidency, due to the winner-take-all nature of the Electoral vote--has actually happened three other times in the course of this country's history, though the occurence previous to 2000 was over 100 years ago.)
You're probably referring to the 1824, 1876, and 1888 elections. It's difficult, however, to trust vote returns from the 19th century, so we'll never really know if, for instance, Harrison or Cleveland won the popular vote total in 1888 (or in 1892, for that matter).
--California, as example, accounts for about 11% of the U.S. population, yet has 20% of the electoral votes needed to win.
Nice bit of statistical sleight of hand there, PDiddie
. If California has 20% of the electoral votes needed to win, then it has approximately 10% of the total
number of electoral votes. As such, California (and all large states) are under-represented
in the electoral college.
--While extremely rare, an elector can be "unfaithful" and vote for someone other than the candidate for whom his state has voted, circumventing completely the will of the voters.
This is a genuine problem, but there are ways to ensure the fidelity of electors short of a constitutional amendment.
--The current system severely handicaps (and, truth to tell, institutionally prohibits) the chances of a third-party candidate winning an election; thus the two major parties are disinclined to revise it.
That is absolutely correct, and it's one thing to keep in mind when considering the elimination of the electoral college. The two-party system in America really rests on three foundations: single-member congressional districts; the unitary office of the presidency; and the electoral college. Take any one of those away and it might destroy the two-party system. Now, of course, many people would consider that a good
thing: I take no position.
Most of the time--the vast majority of the time--our election process functions exactly as the Founding Fathers intended. We ought to happy about that, all deleterious possibilities and outcomes considered.