Many people believe that when they go to the polls every fourth year to vote, they are voting for the president and vice-president of the United States of America. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your vote is really only a suggestion to some people (people you more than likely have never heard of) as to who they should choose as the president. A suggestion they are NOT bound to follow. Our founding fathers thought that the general population [THAT'S YOU AND ME, FOLKS] were too stupid to choose the right person for the job of president.
According to James Hamilton: “It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favourable to deliberation...1” The electoral college was born.
So exactly what is the electoral college? According to dictionary.reference.com the electoral college is:
a body of electors chosen by the voters in each state to elect the President and vice President of the U.S”
Now call me cynical but I think that's a little strange. I have voted in every presidential election since Nixon beat McGovern back in '72 and not once do I remember seeing any name on the ballot running for the office of elector. I put my check-mark next to one of the guys running for president.
Answers.com gets it a little closer. They say:
“The electoral college is a body prescribed by the US constitution, composed of delegates who pledge to vote for the Presidential candidate who won the election in whichever electoral district that particular delegate comes from, and whose vote officially elects the President.”