Changes to Oscar Voting

Hendrik Hertzberg explains the Oscars’ new voting system. The change, while making it more likely that blockbusters will be nominated, makes it more likely that an underdog will actually win.

From 1946 until last year, the voting worked the way Americans are most familiar with. Five pictures were nominated. If you were a member of the Academy, you put an “X” next to the name of your favorite. The picture with the most votes won. Nice and simple, though it did mean that a movie could win even if a solid majority of the eligible voters—in theory, as many as seventy-nine per cent of them—didn’t like it. Those legendary PricewaterhouseCoopers accountants don’t release the totals, but this or something like it has to have happened in the past, probably many times.

This year, the Best Picture list was expanded, partly to make sure that at least a couple of blockbusters would be on it… To forestall a victory for some cinematic George Wallace or Ross Perot, the Academy switched to a different system. Members—there are around fifty-eight hundred of them—are being asked to rank their choices from one to ten. In the unlikely event that a picture gets an outright majority of first-choice votes, the counting’s over. If not, the last-place finisher is dropped and its voters’ second choices are distributed among the movies still in the running. If there’s still no majority, the second-to-last-place finisher gets eliminated, and its voters’ second (or third) choices are counted. And so on, until one of the nominees goes over fifty per cent.

This scheme, known as preference voting or instant-runoff voting, doesn’t necessarily get you the movie (or the candidate) with the most committed supporters, but it does get you a winner that a majority can at least countenance. It favors consensus.

Via Balloon Juice

Changes to Oscar Voting

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