Why Was the Electorial College Created?
Well, the story when our nation first started, isn't much different than it is today. In 1789, the United States was as divided as it was in the Revolutionary War. The South supported Britain with the North mostly supporting Unionist. Later, it became the Slave States v the Northern States and State Rights v the Federal Government.
Additionally, the Founding Fathers distrusted a powerful federalist state (they just broke away from England the tyranny of the very powerful English Parliament).
The Founding Fathers greatly favored a very powerful system of "checks and balances" and this extends beyond the confines of government itself by design.
For example, not only were the 3 branches of government checks Presidential ("Executive"), Congressional and the Supreme Court. The three branches also had different power levels designed within themselves to provide more "checking" security. For example, the court system would be divided into 4 groups: state, state supreme courts, appellate, federal and federal supreme courts so that no one judge would wield too much power. Likewise, Congress (divided into House and Senate) would also be divided further by committees and the 2 houses could be checked by each other when considering legislation. And, the executive (running both police and military) could be checked by both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court.
Obviously, having checks on and within branches of government is important. But, the press (representing both the "voice" and "watchdog" of the American People. The press would be the "check" on government overall.
North v South
That brings us to the Electorial College.
Population in the later 1700's favored the northern states. And as a voting block, it typically favored the Republican Party. In any election, any election held would most likely favor a Northern President as opposed to a Southern one. Leaving the system to a "popular vote" would have further put a political "wedge" between the North and the South and thereby giving an "unfair" edge up on for the Northern States. This presented a very unique problem that had to addressed adequately and as "fairly" as possible. Furthermore, much of the population was disfranchised by the voting requirements. But those voters who were male, owning land and white were favored to cast votes while (in many cases) there were restrictions on non-whites, non-Catholics, Jews and women. This kept the voting pool rather small and ostensibly, it made the voting field extremely "lop-sided" favoring northern interests. In order to avoid a civil war and giving the south a very good reason to secede from the Union, the Founding Fathers absolutely had to solve this problem of regional voting "favoritism" that would almost always award the north a "northern president".
This would present a huge problem for the Union standing behind a President without being bitterly divided based on population. In 1790, the first census was taken and the lopsided "voters" was glaring as much as it was clear:
Out of 791,850 "qualified voters who were white males of 16 years and upward, including heads of households, only 244,757 were residing in Southern states at that time.
The situation worsened as the United States slowly sunk into civil war:
The Electorial College was the solution to address this very, very serious problem. By having congressional districts (based on party control), a college of electors could be chosen by the congressional districts to elect the president. This system of choosing the president a more "equitable way" of voting when deciding which candidate president (with much less deference with regard to region and population density).
Urbis v Ruris
Today, the map of the United States is still bitterly divided with cities supporting more liberal and Democratic candidates for president of the United States and rural areas supporting more conservative and Republican candidates for President.
An Extraordinary Glimpse of Population Currently
Nearly 90% of the American population (87%) lives in urban areas. If the popular vote were taken (almost all of the time) a president would emerge from an urban area (as is currently the case). Many of rural voters would feel as though they were "forgotten" and "outnumbered" by city dwellers in the political process. Keeping an Electorial College as part of the Presidential selection would take the votes of rural Americans much more into consideration than otherwise.
Currently, the Electorial College allows for some votes of Americans to be "weighted more" than votes situated in bigger, more populated states and those states who have more urbanized or bigger urbanized areas in general.
An Electorial College allows the votes of Americans to be counted much more equitably than by a system based on popular vote based on regional and geographical locations than by the population as a whole.
However, times are changing and perhaps, with the electorate being far more sophisticated and politically up-to-date, a vote based on popularity may be the answer combined with a third party that is more center than the current two parties that maintain political power and that is inclusive of all poeple regardless of geographical residency.