Ismar Volić at Harvard Book Store


Making Democracy Count:
How Mathematics Improves Voting,
Electoral Maps, and Representation

in conversation with ANDREW SCHULTZ


April 11, 2024
7:00 PM ET


Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138


This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes ISMAR VOLIĆ—director of the Institute for Mathematics and Democracy at Wellesley College—for a discussion of his new book Making Democracy Count: How Mathematics Improves Voting, Electoral Maps, and Representation. He will be joined in conversation by ANDREW SCHULTZ—professor of mathematics at Wellesley College.

About Making Democracy Count

What’s the best way to determine what most voters want when multiple candidates are running? What’s the fairest way to allocate legislative seats to different constituencies? What’s the least distorted way to draw voting districts? Not the way we do things now. Democracy is mathematical to its very foundations. Yet most of the methods in use are a historical grab bag of the shortsighted, the cynical, the innumerate, and the outright discriminatory. Making Democracy Count sheds new light on our electoral systems, revealing how a deeper understanding of their mathematics is the key to creating civic infrastructure that works for everyone.

In this timely guide, Ismar Volić empowers us to use mathematical thinking as an objective, nonpartisan framework that rises above the noise and rancor of today’s divided public square. Examining our representative democracy using powerful clarifying concepts, Volić shows why our current voting system stifles political diversity, why the size of the House of Representatives contributes to its paralysis, why gerrymandering is a sinister instrument that entrenches partisanship and disenfranchisement, why the Electoral College must be rethought, and what can work better and why. Volić also discusses the legal and constitutional practicalities involved and proposes a road map for repairing the mathematical structures that undergird representative government.

Making Democracy Count gives us the concrete knowledge and the confidence to advocate for a more just, equitable, and inclusive democracy.

Praise for Making Democracy Count

“The rules for electing candidates to public office have a profound effect on democracy, a fact not generally appreciated. Ismar Volić’s beautifully written book shows just how crucial these rules are—and how they can be improved.” —Eric Maskin, Nobel Laureate in Economics, Harvard University

“A clear, accessible, and enjoyable introduction to the mathematical machinery behind American democracy. Challenging us to imagine how elections could be different, Volić explains how mathematicians think about the basic elements of our democratic system, from voting and apportionment to gerrymandering. In a moment when many worry about American polarization, Volic’s perspective is refreshing and necessary.” —Alma Steingart, author of Axiomatics: Mathematical Thought and High Modernism

“Do you remember how shocked you were at the outcome of the 2016 presidential election? One candidate received millions more votes, and yet she lost! The Electoral College was a major culprit, but there are lots of other ways for seemingly reasonable processes to go astray. In Making Democracy Count, you will learn how the immutable mathematical laws behind commonly accepted voting schemes make such astonishing outcomes possible. Read this book and you will learn what can be done to make the word ‘democracy’ achieve what it claims. Highly recommended.” —Paul J. Nahin, author of The Mathematical Radio

Masking Policy

Masks are encouraged but not required for this event.

Andrew Schultz
Andrew Schultz

Andrew Schultz

Andrew Schultz is a professor of mathematics at Wellesley College. He studies absolute Galois groups of fields through their cohomological invariants. 

Ismar Volić
Ismar Volić

Ismar Volić

Ismar Volić is professor of mathematics and director of the Institute for Mathematics and Democracy at Wellesley College. His work has appeared in publications such as The Hill, Cognoscenti, and Education Week.

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

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