And the Winner Is...

By Blair Bobier
Published September 2nd 2009 in The Political Reform Blog
Yesterday, hundreds of newspapers around the world announced that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will award its coveted Oscar for Best Picture by using a voting method commonly known as Instant Runoff Voting. This is probably the most attention that news outlets have paid to voting methodology since the topsy-turvy 2000 presidential election.

"Instead of just marking an ‘X' to indicate which one picture they believe to be the best, members will indicate their second, third and further preferences as well," Academy President Tom Sherak said. "PricewaterhouseCoopers will then be able to establish the Best Picture recipient with the strongest support of a majority of our electorate."

With ten nominees vying for Best Picture, the Academy wisely decided to avoid vote-splitting and chose a voting method that would pick a flick with majority support. The Academy's executive director, Bruce Davis, said they were concerned about "certain mathematical dangers" of a winner emerging with scant support from a crowded field. This is a concern that many political scientists share about the "top two" primary (often mistakenly referred to as an "open primary"), which will make its way to the ballot in California as a result of the state's dysfunctional legislative process.

The Academy already uses another form of ranked choice, or preferential, voting to select the Oscar nominees in a majority of its award categories. Voting geeks are having a field day with the expansion of ranked choice voting to the Academy's top prize.

IRV Soars in Twin Cities, FairVote Corrects the Pundits on Meaning of Election Night '09
Election Day '09 was a roller-coaster for election reformers.  Instant runoff voting had a great night in Minnesota, where St. Paul voters chose to implement IRV for its city elections, and Minneapolis voters used IRV for the first time—with local media touting it as a big success. As the Star-Tribune noted in endorsing IRV for St. Paul, Tuesday’s elections give the Twin Cities a chance to show the whole state of Minnesota the benefits of adopting IRV. There were disappointments in Lowell and Pierce County too, but high-profile multi-candidate races in New Jersey and New York keep policymakers focused on ways to reform elections;  the Baltimore Sun and Miami Herald were among many newspapers publishing commentary from FairVote board member and former presidential candidate John Anderson on how IRV can mitigate the problems of plurality elections.

And as pundits try to make hay out of the national implications of Tuesday’s gubernatorial elections, Rob Richie in the Huffington Post concludes that the gubernatorial elections have little bearing on federal elections.