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Hugo nominating ballot numbers

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I really haven't wanted to do much of anything other than write about sf all day today, apparently. It led me to post a couple of lengthy and probably ill-considered comments on blogs.

And I wrote a journal entry about Fandom tonight, and revised another one that I wrote a couple years ago but never posted, but I'm not quite ready to post either of those, especially since one of them is kind of contentious.

So instead I'm going to talk about the number of people nominating for Hugo Awards.

There's an excellent George Flynn article titled "Hugo Voting: Let's Look at the Record (Again)," giving all sorts of statistics about numbers related to Hugo voting, covering the years 1971 through 1999. (Flynn had written an earlier article in 1988, and the original version of this one in 1995, but the latest revised version came in '99.)

Ever since I first saw it, I've been wanting to update Flynn's stats with numbers from later years, but I've never quite gotten around to doing it. Today, someone pointed to SmofInfo.com, which contains a bunch of useful material for people who want to run WorldCons, and also may be of interest to anyone interested in historical WorldCon info. There are Excel spreadsheets showing WorldCon size over time, for example, and hotel rates, and financial and business meeting reports, and so on.

And there's a link to the WSFS Hugo Voting Reports, providing full nomination details and final-ballot details for most of the past several WorldCons.

Unfortunately, those lists mostly don't contain the key number I was looking for, which was the number of nominating ballots cast. But it turned out, once I started looking for that info, that it wasn't too hard to find in most cases.

So here's some data about Hugos. I don't have enough data to fill in all the boxes in Flynn's table 1, but I do have some of it. I'm replacing some of Flynn's columns (that I don't have data for) with others of interest to me: for both nominating and final ballots, I'm including the number of electronic ballots cast, and the percentage of total ballots that were cast electronically.

[Note added in 2009: I'm updating this over time, at least when I remember.]

Nominating and Final Ballot Counts (2000–2009)
Year Location Valid Nominating Ballots Valid Final Ballots No. of Categories[1]
Total Electronic % Electronic Total Electronic % Electronic
2000 Chicago 427[2] 130 30% 1101[2] 475 43% 13
2001 Philadelphia 495 178 36% ? ? ?% 13
2002 San José 626 371 59% ? ? ?% 14
2003 Toronto 738 ? ?% 776 (PDF) 478[3] 62% 14
2004 Boston ? ? ?% 1093 ? ?% 14
2005* Glasgow 546 (PDF) 436 80% 684 (PDF) 552 81% 15
2006 Los Angeles 533 434 81% ? ? ?% 14
2007* Yokohama 409 340 83% ? (PDF) ? ? 15
2008 Denver 483 ? ? 895 (PDF) ? ? 15
2009 Montreal 799 ? ? ? ? ? 16

(* = overseas WorldCon, following Flynn's convention)

[1] Number of categories includes Campbell, per Flynn's convention.

[2] All 2000 numbers may be off by 20 or 30; phrasing re invalid ballots is unclear.

[3] Not quite accurate; that's total electronic ballots, probably including a few invalid ones.

In 1999, Flynn noted that "since the mid-'70s the 'normal' Hugo nominating-ballot count has been fairly stable at around 500," with the exception of overseas WorldCons and a few others. The above data suggests that, after a lull in the late '90s (when the average was about 450), the number of nominating ballots suddenly went way up in 2002 and has stayed mostly relatively high--the number in 2003 was the highest number ever, though I don't know what it was as a percentage of total membership. (And, weirdly, 2003 appears to have been the lowest number of final ballots for a North American WorldCon since 1983. Was that just 'cause it was in Canada?) This year's number is a little low for an overseas WorldCon, but nonetheless higher than several years in the early '90s (as shown in Flynn's table).

(Oh, and incidentally, Nippon 2007 has posted their official press release with the nominating ballot and a bunch of related numbers.)

Does anyone have data about the total number of nominating ballots in 2004, or about the number of them submitted electronically in '03, '04, or '07? I remember discussions from a few years back when some of us were sure that nominating and voting numbers would go way up with the advent of electronic voting; sadly, that hasn't happened to the degree that we were hoping.

I'm also, obviously, missing info about numbers of final ballots for most years. I'd be grateful to anyone who has data--ideally with links to official or semi-official sources.

5 Comments

I wonder how many nominating this year were members of last year's well attended worldcon in the US? Remember both members of the previous as well as the current year's worldcon can nominate for Hugos.

What is interesting is the lack of Japanese nominations. Hugely surprising. Hugely disappointing. Did the Japan Worldcon Committee encourage them to participate or did they think that the Hugos were (like the Worldcon) largely a US affair?

All in all rather sad.

In terms of the novel nominations, the other point to bear in mind is that not all have been published this side of the Atlantic. Meanwhile had those of us this side of the Pond, in the British Isles, tried to nominate titles that were published here first, we would not have the numbers (having both a smaller population and hence smaller fandom). British authors tend only to make it if they asre published simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic. As for continental European countries such as France, they have no chance of getting their books in... All part of the same global problem, hence a shame that this year Japan's best chance, nothing happened.

Jonathan of Concatenation


Yeah, the previous year's attendees are always a factor in nominations, though I don't think anyone has tracked how much of a factor they are. (I don't think I've ever seen a Hugo administrator release that info, so I suspect they don't track it, but I could be wrong.) I've seen it suggested that there may be a core group of a couple hundred people who usually comprise a substantial fraction of the nominators from year to year, but I don't know whether anyone has any evidence of that, and it's probably not possible to determine for sure.

There's a theory going around that Japanese congoers tend (even more than Americans) to sign up for cons later rather than earlier, and thus that many of them missed the nomination deadline. But I have no idea whether that's true.

For anyone interested in Japanese science fiction, see also the Seiun Award page at Wikipedia.


British authors tend only to make it if they [are] published simultaneously on both sides of the Atlantic.
That's the value of the blanket-eligibility extension (which must be renewed annually, but was renewed and in effect for this year's Hugos) that gives works published outside the USA an extra year of eligibility when they get first US publication.

Thanks for the overview. As it happens, the 2001 data are easily available from the official page 2001.worldcon.org/hugos/2001winners.html (I was doing some research on Harry Potter voters; the drop between the number of votes for the winner and 2nd to 5th place is significant). I wanted to write to SMOFInfo so that they add it to their copies, but they have no contact address and I didn't want to try WHOIS; so I'll at least leave a link here.


Thanks, Jan. However, the 2001 data that I'm looking for isn't on the official page that you pointed to. I'm not looking for information about the number of ballots in each category; I'm looking for information about the total number of ballots cast, across all categories, and that information isn't anywhere on the official page as far as I can tell.

I'll pass the page you mentioned along to the person in charge of smofinfo, though; thanks for suggesting that.