Who votes for the Oscars? What are they actually voting on? And are there rules to casting a ballot? If you have ever had questions about the voting process for the Oscars, A.frame is here to break down how it works and provide you with all the answers.

Established in 1929, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is home to a global membership of more than 10,500 of the most accomplished film industry artists and leaders, across 18 branches. The branches range from acting, directing, cinematography, film editing, costume design, sound, hair and makeup, and more. See the full list here.

Each year, the Oscars recognize cinematic excellence across a total of 23 categories. (And soon to be 24 categories: The Board of Governors announced that Achievement in Casting will be introduced at the 98th Oscars.) Who wins each of those Oscar is a democratic process and it all comes down to the final round of voting.

Does every member get to vote for the Oscars?

Although nominations are largely determined by members of the corresponding branch – i.e. actors nominate actors, film editors nominate film editors, so on and so forth – when it comes to choosing the winners, all active members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science can vote in all categories, including Best Picture.

Most of the awards are decided by a simple system where the nominee who gets the most votes wins. For Best Picture, the process is slightly different.

Okay, how does voting for Best Picture work?

Voting members rank the Best Picture nominees – 1 to 10 – from their favorite to their least favorite. The film that gets 50 percent or more of the votes is the winner. If one movie doesn't get 50 percent out of the gate, the one with the fewest votes is eliminated, and the members who voted for that as their top choice have their votes added to the film that was next on their list. 

What happens if their second choice was the one that was eliminated? Well, their votes then go to their third choice, and so on. That process continues until one movie gets 50 percent or more of all the votes. 

So, does every member who votes get a ballot to fill in?

It's all done online, so there are no paper ballots involved. And it's secret, so no one knows who voted for what – unless the member tells someone, of course.

Does every voting member have to see every single film?

No, but members are asked to watch as many films as possible and only vote for the films that they have actually seen. Members also don’t have to vote in every category. If someone hasn’t seen enough of the films in a category or doesn’t otherwise feel qualified to vote in a certain category, they may abstain.

When does voting start and when does it finish? 

This year, nominations were announced on Jan. 23. The date of the nominations presentation changes slightly from year to year, but there are always four weeks between the nominations and the final voting – this year, that started on Thursday, Feb. 22, and ended on Tuesday, Feb. 27. 

Can you give me a hint about who won what this year? 

No. After all the votes are cast and all the votes are counted – which happens a few days before the ceremony – there are only two people who know the Oscar recipients before the winners are announced, and that is two partners at PricewaterhouseCoopers (or PwC). They are the people with the briefcase containing all of the envelopes that you see being opened on TV after someone announces, "And the winner is…"


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