Winners of 23 of the 24 races at the 92nd Academy Awards on February 9 were decided by popular vote: i.e, each of the 8,469 members of the academy has chosen just one of the nominees and the Oscar goes to the contender with the most votes. The winner of Best Picture is arrived at by using a modified version of the preferential voting that determined the nominees in those other races.
For the 2020 Oscars, voters were asked to rank the nine Best Picture nominees: “Ford v Ferrari,” “The Irishman,” “Jojo Rabbit,” “Joker,” “Little Women,” “Marriage Story,” “1917,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “Parasite.” If one nominee garnered more than 50% of the first place votes, it wins Best Picture. If, as is more likely, no nominee reaches this threshold, the film with the fewest first-place votes is eliminated, with its ballots being reapportioned to the second-place choice.
Should no film cross the required 50% + one ballot threshold, the film with the fewest first-place votes is again eliminated, with its ballots being apportioned to the next choice still in play (i.e., if the second-place choice is no longer in the running, then the ballot would be reapportioned to the third-place choice and so on.) This process of elimination and reapportion continues until one film reaches at least 50% + one ballots. That will be the Best Picture winner revealed as the last award on Sunday’s Oscars.
This method of preferential voting for the final Best Picture ballot was reintroduced in 2009, when the academy went to 10 nominees in this category for the first time since 1943. It was kept in place in 2010 when the number of nominees shifted to somewhere between five and 10. The academy believes this “best allows the collective judgment of all voting members to be most accurately represented.”