ballots

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has adopted a new voting system for the 2010 race, and an article in this week’s New Yorker argues that it’s likely to harm Avatar’s chances. (Hat tip: Kare Anderson)

Instead of a simple ballot system where the movie with the most votes wins, the Academy is using a what is known as an instant-runoff system. It works like this: Voters rank the ten nominees in order of preference from 1 to 10. If no movie gets a majority of first place votes (which isn’t likely to happen, especially in early rounds), the last-place movie is dropped and the second choices on each of its ballots are redistributed to the other nine movies. This process continues until one movie finally has a majority of first choices.

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Seven poor ballot designs – and seven solutions – in this interactive graphic based on work by AIGA, the professional association for designers. (See our previous post on election ballots here.)

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A well-designed ballot is an under-appreciated part of a successful democratic process. Anyone who remembers the 2000 butterfly ballot from Palm Beach knows that confusing ballots mean confused voters — which led to elderly Jewish Floridians voting for Pat Buchanan instead of Al Gore. Confusing ballots have continued to disrupt recent elections. Two months ago on Super Tuesday, a poorly designed California ballot bewildered 50,000 non-partisan voters trying to vote in the Democratic primary. In order to have their votes counted, non-partisan voters – voters who have not declared themselves as a member of a party – needed to fill out a bubble confirming that they were voting in the Democratic primary, followed by a second bubble for their actual candidate choice. In Los Angeles County, 776,000 voters faced what has become known as “double bubble trouble.” For a picture of the ballot, click here.

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