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Academy hopes Oscars' red carpet not shredded (Excerpt)

Gregg Kilday // Published January 9, 2008 in Hollywood Reporter
Academy officials were on hand Tuesday morning for a previously scheduled press event at the organization's headquarters, in which PricewaterhouseCoopers' Brad Oltmanns and Rick Rosas explained the preferential voting system the Academy uses to determine its nominees.

Adopted by the Academy in 1936, the system asks Academy members to list five choices in order of preference in each category in which they vote. For nominations, members of each branch vote in their respective area, while all the members nominate best picture.

The accountants then take the paper ballots and sort them into piles according to each ballot's first choice. The total number of ballots in a category is divided by six (five nominees plus one), which produces the minimum number of votes needed to secure a nomination.

Potential nominees with the lowest number of votes are then eliminated, and those ballots' second-choice votes are reassigned to the various piles. In cases where a second choice already has been eliminated, that ballot's third-, fourth- or even fifth-place nominee is added to the surviving piles until five nominees emerge.

"In effect," Rosas said, "we are trying to weed out those five that have the highest, deepest support."

Added Davis, "This allows you to vote your heart, however eccentric your preferences may be, and still leave you in the game."

It takes seven days to count the nomination ballots. Although the process could go faster if it was computerized, the accounting firm uses a paper system so that there is no file that anyone can hack into.

Under the preferential system used in the nominating process, a tie is impossible. However, on the final ballots, where the winner is determined by whoever gets the most votes, ties are possible.