Voices & Choices

‘Green Book’ Oscars win reflects its membership, not the voting method

‘Green Book’ Oscars win reflects its membership, not the voting method

You can’t please everyone.

And the Best Picture win for “Green Book” certainly did not, with some critics framing the surprise win as an “upset” when cast against the other frontrunners like “Roma” and “Black Panther.” But what those shocked by the  win failed to consider was that the voters choosing Best Picture were the very same group who selected nominees.

And therein lies the problem for those expecting the Best Picture winner to reflect something more progressive and perhaps accurate of racial issues; that problem is the   the membership, and not as some critics suggested, the voting method used to determine the winner. Despite the Academy’s steps toward increasing diversity, its membership remains primarily white and male, as FairVote Managing Director Sangita Sigdyal writes in an op-ed for The Hill.

Even if all 928 invitees asked to join the ranks last year said “yes,” among the overall membership, women still would comprise a little less than a third of The Academy and non-white members, a mere 16 percent.”

Moreover, historically feel-good race relations stories have won in the Best Picture category well before the switch to ranked choice voting in 2009, evidenced by wins for “Driving Miss Daisy” in 1990 and “Crash” in 2006. And Green Book scored the highest of all eight nominees in audience ratings on Rotten Tomatoes and IMDB.

While we can’t know the full results of the ranked choice count for Best Picture, what we do know is that in principle and practice, ranked choice elections produce majority winners who also have strong first choice support. To suggest that a ranked choice vote somehow gave a win to a film based on backup choices alone ignores the fundamental facts about how RCV works as well as the demographics of the voters. Different results can’t happen with the same cast of (older, white and male) characters.

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