Preferential voting can produce an Oscar winner that may not receive the highest number of first-place votes. Starting with the 82nd Academy Awards, the best picture category expanded from five movies to as many as 10. The system aims to ensure that the film with the broadest support wins — which isn't necessarily the film that gets the most first-place votes. Here's how it works, using eight nominees as an example:
Each voter ranks the films in order of preference and submits the ballot.
The No. 1 picks from all voters are tabulated.
A film needs more than half the votes to win. If no film gets more than half of the No. 1 picks, the nominee with the fewest is thrown out. Those ballots are then given to the remaining nominees according to the voters' No. 2 choice.
The process repeats
Nominees are eliminated, giving votes to the next highest-ranked film on each ballot. When one film obtains more than 50% of the votes, the winner is decided.