As byzantine as the Academy Awards' new preferential voting format is, there's good reason to change from the one-vote, one-movie system of the past. With 10 nominees, a movie could ostensibly win with 11% of the overall vote.
The new system ensures that won't happen, but Oscar could probably use a statistics major by his side when counting ballots. In short:
- Academy members are asked to rank the 10 best-picture nominees in order of preference.
- If a movie gets 51% or more of the vote (unlikely), the contest is over. If not, auditors with PricewaterhouseCoopers will divide the movies into 10 stacks. The movie with the fewest No. 1 votes is eliminated, and that stack's No. 2 votes go to the remaining corresponding films.
- If a majority isn't reached with those No. 2 votes, the process repeats, eliminating the next-lowest pile, whose votes are redistributed. The process continues until one film has a majority vote. Until that time, if a ballot's No. 2 choice has been eliminated, the auditors go to No. 3 and then as far down the ballot as necessary.
Though the new system ensures some consensus, it raises the possibility that a movie with more No. 2 and No. 3 votes could beat the film with the most first-place ballots.
"With 10 movies and this system, we have a real race for once," says Sasha Stone of AwardsDaily.com. "At this point, I wouldn't be surprised by any name they read."