Every year, Cosmo voters cast votes in two separate rounds. The first round is used to select five nominees in each category. The second round is used to determine which of the nominees with take home the coveted Cosmo Award. The process has evolved a little over the years, and has been designed to ensure that the nominees (and eventual winners) have both widespread and passionate support amongst the voters.


The Nomination Round

Nomination ballots are issued to Cosmo voters the same day that the Motion Picture Academy of America announces its Oscar nominees. The timing is deliberate. Certain films that Cosmo voters might have overlooked will suddenly be hyped during the Oscar season, and an Oscar nomination will give the film the exposure it needs to come to a Cosmo voter's attention. In addition, most fans of the Oscars have, at one time or another, felt that the wrong candidates were nominated. This is their chance to react against that.

The nominations are open to all films released in the United States during the preceding calendar year. Films that were released in limited distribution can be considered if their widespread distribution occurs at a reasonable time before Cosmo voters need to make a decision.

The ballots have five slots for each category. There are no pre-determined slates; voters must choose on their own who they wish to nominate. They may select up to five different films or individuals to nominate. This helps ensure that the breadth of the voters' interests are reflected. But passion counts, and Cosmo voters can reflect that by casting an optional power vote for one of their five nominees. This is weighted the same as a regular vote; in essence, that potential nominee has received two nomination votes rather than just one. The power vote must go to one of those five nominees; a sixth candidate cannot be chosen.

Once the ballots are processed and the totals are calculated, the top five vote recipients in each category are chosen to become the nominees. In the event of a tie for fifth place, the Board of Governors must decide how to resolve the tie. In most instances, all of the fifth-place tied candidates become nominees. But if there is a significant gap between fourth and fifth place, or in the unusual situation where the fifth place candidates only received a single vote, the Board of Governors may choose to contract the list and have fewer than five nominees.

The Cosmo Award Round

Nominees are announced the day of the Academy Awards, and final round ballots are issued at the same time. By this point, many Cosmo voters will have seen several of the top Oscar films, so their voting for the Cosmo Award will be more informed. Even if they haven't seen them, that's okay - the awards as are much about what draws us to the theater as they are about what we liked once we got there. (Which means that they are in part an award for the marketing department.)

Cosmo voters have approximately a month to complete their ballots. This time, they may only vote for one of the nominees, and must choose a nominated candidate (write-ins are not allowed, since the period to write in a candidate occurred in the first round). The recipient of the most votes will receive the Cosmo. In the event of a tie between two nominees, both will receive the Cosmo. If more than two nominees tie (which occurred in several categories the first year), the Board of Governors now has criteria used to break the tie.


The Ratings Ballot

In addition to casting votes for their favorite films and performances in defined categories, voters also have another separate ballot in which they assign a rating to each film from the previous calendar year that they saw. The ratings are on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest. All films from the appropriate year are rated, even if they did not receive any nominations. From these ballots, three additional awards are given: Most Watched (the film rated by the most voters, regardless how they felt about it), Highest Rated (the film seen by at least 25% of voters that had the highest average score), and Most Popular (the best aggregate score, a measure that combines both quantity and quality of ratings).

In theory, three different films could be honored for each award. The film seen by the most voters may have received excessive hype and could have been poorly received, resulting in a low rating and consequently a low popularity index score. And the highest rated film may have only been seen by the bare minimum of voters, resulting in low scores for Watched and Popularity. This could result in a film being named Most Popular even if it was neither seen by the most voters nor given the highest average rating. But although this could theoretically happen, to date, at least, the film that was the most watched has also always good enough to do well in the popularity index, allowing it to win both awards.