Amel Ahmed

Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Massachusetts Amherst
Areas of Expertise:
  • Civic Engagement
  • Revitalizing U.S. Democracy
  • Voting

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About Amel

Ahmed’s main area of expertise is the study of democratic institutions and particularly electoral systems. She is especially interested in how the “rules of the game” affect democratic outcomes: who participates, how influential certain groups are, and what are the policy consequences of these two issues. She studies the development of electoral systems historically to see how the mechanics of democracy can impact the substance of democratic politics. This research illustrates that even small shifts in voting rules, districting decisions, and electoral systems can have a significant impact – not just on who wins and who loses, but also on who gets to play the game.



Democracy and the Politics of Electoral System Choice: Engineering Electoral Dominance (Cambridge University Press, 2012).
Examines the politics of institutional choice at the time of suffrage expansion in early democracies, illustrating the use of electoral safeguards to maintain the influence of pre-democratic elites. What is most surprising in these findings is that, contrary to common belief, many of these safeguards are in fact perfectly democratic, and thus were not swept away with later reform efforts. In-depth case studies include: the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Belgium.
"The Existential Threat: Varieties of Socialism and the Origins of Electoral Systems in Advanced Democracies" Studies in Comparative International Development 48, no. 1 (forthcoming).
Examines the use of electoral safeguards in response to the rise of workers’ parties in early democracies. Among other things, it seeks to explain why at the height of working class mobilization, no workers’ party ever reached an electoral majority. In contrast to prevalent explanations that highlight the importance of structural features such as the nature of industrialization, my research suggests that it was at least in part the result of elite manipulation and particularly the use of electoral safeguards that helped pre-democratic parties of the right and hindered the advance of workers’ parties. The paper employs cross-regional analysis of 18 cases.

In the News

"In Defense of the Electoral College," Amel Ahmed, The American Prospect, December 23, 2016.
"Chief Justice Roberts was Right: How to Fix the Voting Rights Act," Amel Ahmed, Talking Points Memo, February 21, 2014.
"Interactive Map of the Egyptian Electoral Process," Amel Ahmed, Al-Jazeera English, November 2011-January 2012.
"Anniversary of the Egyptian Revolution," Amel Ahmed, Interview with Carrie Saldo, WGBY 57’s Connecting Point, February 9, 2012.