Proportional voting system makes for wide-open
of Hollywood office
briefing for the entertainment press by the
Center for Voting and Democracy
Academy Awards uses a proportional voting system
to select the five nominees for each category.
Understanding this voting system is key to
understanding the Oscar race. In this briefing,
the Center for Voting and Democracy explains how
proportional voting works and what it means for
the Oscar contenders. Analysts from the Center
are available for interviews and background.
Please contact Dan Johnson-Weinberger at
312.933.4890 or the Center's national office in
Washington DC at 301.270.4616.
How do Oscar
nominees get chosen?
5,500 voting members of the Academy of Motion
Pictures Arts and Sciences choose the nominees
for each award, as well as the winner among the
five nominees. All members vote on Best Picture,
while peers vote for nominees and winners in the
other non-specialized categories (directors vote
for Best Director, actors for Best Actor, etc.).
But how exactly do these nominees get chosen?
Academy uses a very inclusive voting system:
proportional representation. This is designed to
create a diverse slate of nominees that reflects
the preferences of the broad spectrum of film
artists who make up the organization's various
nominating ballot has five numbered slots for
each category that the member is eligible to vote
in. Although each member only gets one vote, they
are entitled to choose up to five potential
nominees, in order. In case their favorite
nominee is eliminated, their vote counts toward
their second choice. There is no need to make
calculations about whether an achievement has a
realistic chance or not, because voters can't
waste their votes. Academy members can support an
unlikely candidate, as their vote will count for
their second choice if their first choice is
potential nominee that is supported by 20% of the
voters will get 1 of the 5 nominations (that's
proportional representation). With more than
5,000 ballots expected to be returned to the
Academy in the Best Picture category, the magic
number of first-choice votes for a would-be
nominee for Best Picture is a little more than
The exact quota is a bit lower than 20%. In order
to find the lowest number of votes needed to win
one of five nominations, the Academy divides the
total number of votes by six (not five), and adds
one more vote to that figure. That is 16.6% plus
one more vote.
the five nominees are chosen by proportional
representation, another ballot is sent out to all
Academy members. This time, preferential voting
is not allowed. Whoever gets the most votes wins
the Oscar and there is no need to get a majority
else is proportional representation used?
same inclusive voting system is used to elect the
city council of Cambridge, Massachusetts, the
Australian Senate and the parliament of Ireland.
The plurality voting system to pick the winner --
where you don't have to earn a majority of votes
-- is the same system we use to elect the
president of the United States.