As the Academy Awards are due to take place this Sunday, the official voting ballots have now been closed as and from today, with the count on these now officially underway.
All told, 7,258 members of the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences - AMPAS, for short - are eligible to vote and the turnout's like any other. Sometimes it's high, sometimes it's low. This year, however, is expected to be pretty substantial and the rumours doing the rounds is that the Best Picture race is the most wide-open its been in years, with Get Out possibly staging a stunning upset in the eleventh hour.
But how does the actual voting system work? Who counts the votes? How does the voting work?
Well, for starters, only a select number of people can actually vote - the members eligible to vote can only vote within their own branch. In other words, members of AMPAS who are actors can only vote for actors. Directors can only vote for directors, producers only for producers, so on and so on - but all branches can vote for Best Picture. Not only that, the voting slip encourages people to vote for whatever film they like and are asked to give five choices in order of preference.
Voting begins in late December and is done either through paper or online ballot, and the nominations are dwindled down to the official nominees. From there, there's another round of voting that goes right up the Monday before the event - which was yesterday, obviously. The votes are counted by PricewaterhouseCoopers, who then work to determine the magic number for each nominee.
Let's take the Best Actor category as an example. They receive 610 completed ballots in that category, and there's five nominees. So, the accountants divide 610 by 6 - that's five nominees, plus one - to give them 101.6, or 102. So, a nominee has to receive 102 votes to be nominated. If the number of ballots is a whole number, they use that as the magic number. So, say if they only received 432 completed ballots. Divide that by six, and you get 72. 72 becomes the amount of votes needed to be considered a nominee.
From there, the nominees who've made it through this round are then counted on their first-choice. Say, for example, Gary Oldman gets 102 first-choice votes. He makes it through to the final list. Those who receive the fewest first-choice votes are eliminated, and then these are redistributed to second-choice votes. The counting goes into a new round, and the second-choice votes are counted again. So, say for example the magic number is 102 and Daniel Kaluuya has only 99 first-choice votes. He won't make it through in the first count, but he gets three votes from the redistributed votes from the second round so that gets him through.
This gets repeated into third, fourth and fifth rounds until the magic number gets smaller and smaller, and the number of nominees dwindles down to just five - which is when you arrive at the official nominees. The idea behind this is that smaller films with passionate voters - as in, ones who'd give it a first or second choice vote - are more likely to get ahead than those who'd receive a fifth or sixth choice vote.
Once that's done and the nominees are announced, the voting is wide open to everyone in AMPAS. Actors can vote for Best Director, cinematographers can vote for Best Supporting Actress, production designers can vote for Best Original Score - everyone can vote for everyone else. However, the recent changes in the voting pools mean that a member must be active in the industry for a period of 10 years. In other words, if you were entered into AMPAS in your twenties, you could still vote in your sixties - even if you didn't make a film in that time.
PricewaterhouseCoopers then tabulates all the votes and delivers the winning envelope in a briefcase that's handcuffed to two senior partners in the firm, who arrive at the ceremony. Only they know the winners, and the votes are counted by hand with a few associates from PwC. Two duplicates of the winners are made, which both PwC executives carry in case one of them is stolen or misplaced, and both executives have to travel via different routes with security on them at all times.
Of course, all this doesn't matter - and you can still have a f*ck-up like last year at the very last moment.