You hear a lot of rubbish from conservatives about how left-wing Hollywood is, but in one overlooked respect it really is left-wing. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences uses, in its nomination process, a complicated form of voting that's somewhat similar to the proportional-voting scheme that sank Lani Guinier's chances of getting confirmed assistant attorney general for civil rights during the Clinton administration. If the big Hollywood studios paid any attention to the way Oscar nominations get tallied they would probably have a cow. But because alternative vote-counting methods are generally considered to be an extremely boring topic, they don't. Unfortunately, nobody else pays any attention either, which is why I try, every year around this time, to publicize the unsung benefits of instant-runoff voting.

The challenge, with Oscar nominations, is to get members of the Academy to maximize both the number and the quality of nominations. Oscar nominations are one of the very few ways you can draw attention to independent or otherwise less-commercial films, which becomes ever-more necessary as the market increasingly divides itself into moronic big-budget movies and at least potentially intelligent small-budget movies. The Academy's instant-runoff scheme achieves this by promoting diversity. That's why Guinier's proportional-voting theories got her branded, albeit unfairly, a "quota queen" back in 1993.

I could explain to you how it works, but I wouldn't do as good a job as Fair Vote, an excellent nonprofit that promotes greater participation and representation in elections. Check out its "Oscar Votes 1 2 3" page, which includes an explanation of small ways that the nominations were tweaked this year. If you ask me, it's much more interesting (and unquestionably more important) than the actual nominations, which will be announced Jan. 24.