Nearly 14 years ago, bush v. Gore reminded us that the popular vote in presidential elections doesn't always square up with electoral votes. Even without the loser in the popular vote winning the electoral vote, in a very tight election with third-party candidates, the winner may have only a plurality, not a majority.
But that's not the only reason to support direct popular vote of presidential elections.
Here are some related reasons.
First, we technically have no official national vote for president. That's because of the electoral college system, compounded with the fact that each state's voters, in what is now essentially a formality, vote separately. The electoral college is the only official vote there is. Usually, as it has been for years of presidential elections, the Associated Press's tally of state-by-state popular voting is summed up and made into a quasi-official figure. But that's not the same.
But that's just a minor point, albeit the introduction to the main one.
If we have direct popular voting for the presidency, that would be a national vote, across state lines. And, it would therefore require federal government oversight of presidential elections. I don't know if, in addition to fear of "the masses," this was another reason the Founding Fathers rejected direct election. I've never seen it mentioned in serious constitutional histories. Anyway, it doesn't matter.
Obviously, even more than the tatters of the Voting Rights Act that still remain, this would arguably allow for direct federal polling observation, etc., in places of concern. As far as disenfranchising voter ID bills, it would arguably prevent states from applying such a standard to presidential elections unless red-staters could force through a federal voter ID bill of similar stringency, or unless they decided they wanted to go to all of the expense of officially conducting all other elections separately from a presidential vote.
Obviously, this would mean that we would need a Federal Election Commission with actual legal teeth.
And, in the case of those pluralities, if we rightly insisted on an absolute majority to win? The FEC, rather than going through an expensive runoff process, could institute instant runoff voting or something.