A system that can put into power the candidate for whom the majority of the electorate did not vote is not a "counterbalance." It's just a subversion of the will of the people. It is tyrannical, and nothing more.
You do realize that, agree or disagree, the effect of the electoral college is by design? The American system was designed from the ground up with the idea that the straight "will of the majority" should not always be the deciding factor. There is a fundamental belief that the states, as entities, should have power in the system as well. Hence the reason why senators were originally elected by the state legislators (a system to which I think we should return) rather than directly by the people. And also the reason for the electoral college. Because it was believed that the states with the most people should not automatically run the show, but that the smaller states should have an important say too.
Like I say, you can agree or disagree, but the US system of state power was definitely by design.
But if we are talking about electing the US President by popular vote, what difference does it make in which state a voter resides? Just because you live in a state which usually votes Repbulican doesn't mean that 49.9% of the electorate are actually Democrats. Just that the Repbulican vote is large enough to make it swing that way.
Now not being an American I maybe wrong, but the electoral college system determines how many electorial college votes each state has based on population. So the larger states like Californian may say get 60 Electorial college votes while smaller states like Delaware might get 8.
So lets say the actual vote breakdown in California is 52/48 split Republicain/Democratic, then all of those electorial college votes goto the Republic party. Similar the reverse is true if Delaware voted 52/48 in favour of the Democratic Party those 8 electorial college votes goto the Democratic party. So even a victory as small as 1 vote can mean the difference between getting 60 electorial college votes and none.
So when all the states are considered as a whole, the Democratic Party candidate might have 52% of the popular vote, but only 48% of the college vote so they lose. Hardly sees fair as the losing candidate was the candidate the voters preferred.
As for the idea of the state legislative electing the representives, isn't that denying the people the change to vote for a different party which they think might be better at a national/international level than a state level.