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Wed, Jan. 20th, 2010, 12:12 pm

I ended up watching most of the Golden Globes with Elizabeth and Johanna in our hotel room on Sunday evening, and then I caught what I missed last night on the DVR. Most of it, both the ceremony and the winners, were pretty meh (but yay, Chloe Sevigny/Big Love!). I thought Ricky Gervais was pretty good but I seem to be in the minority, at least next to the "official" verdicts (one of which, in London, was filed--labeling Ricky a "flop"--forty minutes into the show).

I'm honestly much more excited about my realization last night, that Sandra Bullock's win for Best Actress in a Drama may serve as an excellent illustration for the merits of Instant-Runoff Voting (IRV), the fancy new voting system they'll be using for the Best Picture Oscar this year. (Although, God knows, the Academy is no stranger to bizarre, complicated and ridiculous voting methods.)

Here's how IRV might have figured into Bullock's Golden Globe win:

Imagine that there are 100 voters, and only three nominees: Sandra, Gabbie, and Carey. Of those 100 voters, 40 believe Sandra should win, and 60 believe that either Gabbie or Carey should win, but that either of them would be better than Sandra. In other words, 60 of the 100 voters believe that ANYONE but Sandra should win. So in a normal voting system, where each voter selects the nominee they believe should win, here's what you might end up with:

Sandra - 40
Gabbie - 35
Carey - 25

As a result, Sandra wins using a normal voting system, even though 60% of the voters believe that she was the worst of the three.

But here's what could happen in an Instant-Runoff Voting system: Instead of simply selecting the nominee who should win, each voter would rank ALL of the nominees, in order of preference, from #1 to #3. In the first round of ballot-counting, every voter's #1 choice would be counted:

Sandra - 40 #1 votes
Gabbie - 35 #1 votes
Carey - 25 #1 votes

But because none of the nominees has received a MAJORITY of all votes cast -- meaning a minimum of 51 of the 100 votes -- here's what happens next: the nominee with the lowest number of #1 votes, Carey, is eliminated. Each vote that listed Carey as the #1 choice is now re-distributed to the #2 choice. Since we already established that all 60 votes for Carey or Gabbie would prefer either of them to Sandra -- meaning that the Carey votes would list Gabbie as #2, and vice versa -- the new totals would look like this:

Sandra - 40 #1 votes
Gabbie - [35 #1 votes + 25 #2 votes] = 60 votes

And thus Gabbie wins, and the award goes to the nominee with the highest level of overall support.

It's very, very easy to see this making a difference in a Best Picture race with ten nominees, where the #1 votes are likely to be quite fragmented. Of course, either way the Best Picture race is still going to be weird. I just hope Avatar doesn't win. I'll probably get around to seeing it this weekend, and maybe when I do I'll find that I love it and I really do think it's the best movie of the year, but at this point I'm still quite doubtful.

Wed, Jan. 20th, 2010 05:28 pm (UTC)
zinco

Most people explain this kind of system with elections in mind.

Wed, Jan. 20th, 2010 05:57 pm (UTC)
pigeonrat

Yeah, I first learned about it when someone proposed using it for the Goucher SGA elections. But really, the Oscar voting appears to be far more relevant to my own life than any election jurisdiction where it's used. I don't have much of a stake in explaining to anyone how the mayor of Minneapolis is elected.

Wed, Jan. 20th, 2010 05:44 pm (UTC)
en_dejlig_aften

There are only about 90 people who vote for the Golden Globes. So you aren't too far off what actually happened, I bet.

Wed, Jan. 20th, 2010 05:58 pm (UTC)
pigeonrat

It's so weird that this random, tiny group of people from the Hollywood Foreign Press has scammed the world into caring about what movies and TV they like.