2016 Emmys: Did the Randomized Ballot Give Us Some of This Year’s Shocking Emmy Surprises?
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For those that don’t know how the Emmy voting process works, emmy voters are issued a large 100-plus page document listing every eligible contender in alphabetical order, all the way from Uzo Aduba through to Constance Zimmer.
Why is this a big deal? Well, there has long been a fan theory or myth, that those listed at the top of the ballot (those with surnames early in the alphabet) have an unfair advantage due to voter laziness; Emmy voters simply name-check those listed near the top of the ballot.
In an effort to counter this, starting this year, the Emmys introduced a new aspect to the nomination process; randomizing the order of ballots. Meaning, that whilst some ballots would still be listed to A-Z, others would be listed from Z-A.
This rule however, designed to address the very issue of name-checking, may have inadvertently highlighted that, yes, it’s a real thing that actually happens. Yes, Emmy voters may actually determine their acting nominees based, at least partly, on where their surname is listed in the alphabet. To be clear, the addition of these new nominees over previous ones (including winners) doesn’t invalidate their nominations or their work. It’s just a jumping off point from which to analyze the mind of the Emmy voter and first year of the new randomized ballot.
How do you prove this? Well, by looking at the entire set of nominees, I identified a set of nominees and snubs that can be considered truly shocking.
Looking through the nominees, I’ve identified six that stand out as the “really” shocking nominees: Louie Anderson (Baskets), Laurie Metcalf (Getting On), Maura Tierney (The Affair), Jon Voight (Ray Donovan), Maisie Williams (Game of Thrones), Constance Zimmer (UnREAL).
Notice a pattern? Yep, they’re (mostly) surprisingly close to the start or end of the alphabet aren’t they?
In fact, here is exactly where they were listed on the nomination ballot that was released to the public, before it was randomized to be ordered from either A-Z or Z-A:
Louie Anderson (003 on the ballot)
Laurie Metcalf (040 on the ballot out of 64)
Maura Tierney (244 on the ballot out of 279)
Jon Voight (366 out of 388)
Maisie Williams (266 out of 279)
Constance Zimmer (279 out of 279)
Out of the six of them, only Laurie Metcalf appears close to the middle of the ballot, and that is in a lead category anyway which is slightly less filled and much less susceptible to name-checking.
Take a look at the list of the major snubs from the supporting categories for example:
Uzo Aduba (001)
Christine Baranski (015)
Alan Alda (006)
Jim Carter (051) – this one’s a bit more tentative considering Banks and Dinklage got in.
They’re all surprisingly high on the ballot, aren’t they? Furthermore, if you look at those surprises that did make it from the supporting drama categories, they’re all conveniently very close to the bottom of the ballot. Is it possible that the supporting actor and supporting actress in a drama category were two of those randomly switched from A-Z to Z-A? Absolutely.
What does this mean?
Well it suggests something that we have long believed but could never prove: Emmy voters are incredibly lazy. This is admittedly a small sample size but it seems almost too much of a coincidence that a former winner such as Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black) and perennial nominee Christine Baranski (The Good Wife) could be replaced by two shocking and seemingly out of nowhere nominees in Maisie Williams (someone who has probably never gotten close to a nomination) and Constance Zimmer.
Is it possible that Emmy voters really are too lazy to properly scroll through an entire ballot, and if so, how can we trust voters and a voting process which is potentially so farcical?
But hang on, what about those nominees that didn’t get snubbed that are near the top of the ballot?
This is referring to examples such as Peter Dinklage and Jonathan Banks, both of whom made it into the same supporting actor field which saw Alan Alda and Jim Carter miss.
Does this disprove the theory? Not entirely. Are you telling me you don’t believe for one second that the same Emmy voters who gave Jeff Daniels an Emmy for his performance in The Newsroom over Bryan Cranston, Damian Lewis and Kevin Spacey, couldn’t simply name-check a list of names near the top of their ballot that stand out to them, before quickly searching through the entire ballot for Emmy favourites such as Jonathan Banks and Peter Dinklage? I certainly do.
How do you fix it?
Well that’s the problem; this was meant to be the solution to the problem. There is simply no way of preventing voter laziness, by preventing Emmy voters from name-checking a bunch of names near the top of their ballot.
What would I propose? If possible, randomize the lists completely. Don’t alphabetize, don’t list it from A-Z or Z-A or even have anyone receive the same totally randomized ballot. Make it so that every voters receives a totally different order on their ballot, make the ballot so totally randomized that it will be literally impossible for a consensus to be formed based on the names appearing at the top of the ballot.
But hang on, if you’re saying voters are this lazy, won’t they still just name-check a few of the actors that appear near the top of their totally randomized ballot?
Well, these are Emmy voters we’re talking about, so probably.