Alexander Keyssar

Matthew W. Stirling, Jr., Professor of History and Social Policy, Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University
Areas of Expertise:
  • American Democracy
  • Voting
  • Economic Security
  • Unemployment Insurance

Connect with Alexander

About Alexander

Keyssar writes and teaches about the history of democratic institutions in the United States and (occasionally) elsewhere in the world. Much of this work has focused on the evolution of voting rights, although he is now writing a book that deals with the Electoral College, districting systems, and campaign finance rules. He has worked frequently with advocacy groups that promote democratic reform, such as Common Cause and FairVote.



Out of Work: The First Century of Unemployment in Massachusetts (Cambridge University Press, 1986).
A history of the emergence of unemployment as an important social problem and the policy responses to it.
"Shoring Up the Right to Vote for President: A Modest Proposal" Political Science Quarterly 118, no. 2 (2003): 181-190.
Discusses the absence of a right to vote in Presidential elections and a proposal to correct this glaring problem.
The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States (Basic Books, 2009).
Traces the history of voting rights from the American Revolution through the 2008 election.

In the News

"Who Gets to Vote?," Alexander Keyssar, New York Times, September 30, 2016.
Alexander Keyssar quoted on government-sponsored unemployment insurance in Sean McElwee, "The Economic Plan That Could Save America (but Scares Conservative Billionaires Senseless)" Salon, June 29, 2015.
Alexander Keyssar quoted on the undemocratic nature of property requirements for voting in Kay Steiger, "The Problem with Yoho's Property Owner Vote Idea" Talking Points Memo, May 23, 2014.
Alexander Keyssar quoted on the constitutional right to vote in Isaac Buck, "Piecemeal Suffrage" Harvard Political Review, April 20, 2014.
"The Electoral College Flunks," Alexander Keyssar, The New York Review of Books, March 24, 2005.
"Obama’s Decisive Victory," Alexander Keyssar,, November 5, 2008.
"How Not to Choose a President," Alexander Keyssar, Los Angeles Times, October 28, 2007.
"Short-Circuiting the Vote," Alexander Keyssar, Newsweek Online Edition, November 13, 2008.
"The Real Grand Bargain, Coming Undone," Alexander Keyssar, The Washington Post, August 19, 2011.
"The Strange Career of Voter Suppression," Alexander Keyssar, The New York Times, February 12, 2012.