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.