After 9 years of using a different ranked choice system, the Board of Governors of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences just updated the RCV system they use to choose the Oscar nominees for Best Picture to a Multi-Winner RCV model, known abroad as Single Transferable Vote (STV). The Oscars previously used a version of Multi-winner RCV that was more complicated, and now they are using a simpler multi-winner RCV. The Board will also require that 10 films be nominated each year, whereas before anywhere from five to ten films could be nominated.
This form of Multi-Winner Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) offers a proportional outcome in elections, producing several winners who represent the views of the entire electorate rather than one winner whom everyone has to live with. FairVote has long advocated for Multi-Winner RCV, making it the core tenet of our Fair Representation Act to transform congressional elections.
In Multi-Winner RCV, a threshold of required votes is set up based on the number of winners there will be, and each voter ranks the choices on their ballot. After each round of counting, the option with the fewest top choice votes is eliminated. If an option ever wins a round with more votes than are needed to pass the threshold, it is selected as one of the winners and the people who voted for it have their votes weighted down and re-allocated to their next choice. This continues until there are enough films selected to fill all 10 slots.
The use of proportional representation will ensure that more of those who vote for Best Picture will have at least one nominee they support. The Oscars already uses this system to choose nominees for its other major awards.
This reform to the Best Picture category is part of a larger initiative by the Academy to diversify its membership and more adequately represent the work of marginalized groups, summarized in its Academy Aperture 2025 plan. It comes on the heels of another major change, as just this year the Board of Governors altered its own election process to use RCV rather than a runoff. After the latest election, the 54 member Board includes 26 women and 12 people of color.
Proportional representation is used to elect legislatures around the world, and frequently increases the number of representatives who come from racial and other minority groups. It ensures that election outcomes truly reflect the diversity of the electorate. Through Multi-Winner RCV, the Oscars can elevate films that challenge traditional social tropes and showcase the stories of women, people of color, and other groups.
The success of ranked choice voting in Hollywood provides further evidence that RCV is not just beneficial in political contexts. It is valuable any time an organization needs to choose between more than two options and wants to make fair decisions that give all stakeholders an equal say.