Eurovision Explained: The Voting

Everyone watches Eurovision for different reasons—from listening to the songs to making jokes about the acts to even just popping in out of a little bit of curiosity. It brings out a bit of joy in everyone, as well as humor. 

Once the songs and intervals are done, the most important, and intense part comes in—the voting to decide who has the best song. While the rules have it that the song with the most votes would win, there were different variants on how they were collected. 

The first contest in 1956 had two jurors from each country, in which they voted behind closed doors for any song they wanted, including that from their own country. Because of that opacity, nobody knows the results of that contest, which led to the jurors announcing their points in 1957, and a ban on countries from voting for themselves. 

In the first two decades of Eurovision, there were a number of voting systems—starting with one where each juror from each country would vote for their favorite song, to a ranked voting system in the mid 1960s, to even one where two juries would rate every song from 1 to 5. 

The current system, with the famous “twelve points”, arrived in 1975. Ranking the top ten, the highest-ranked song received twelve points; the second-ranked ten points, and the third place, eight points. Songs #4-10 would receive between one and seven points, which made sure every country gave out the same number of points to each song.

Jury Duty: 

Originally, groups of juries would decide the entire contest, their sizes ranging from 2 to 15 across history. In theory, they would be members of the music industry, but in reality they included members of the public, as well as other celebrities and artists.

In 1997, four countries tested out televoting for the first time, to garner more public support. It was so successful that the following year, almost all countries used phone voting in the following year, and it would be the primary way to get the winner for a decade.

Because of complaints about block-voting, along with the declining quality, juries were brought back in 2009, but this time, they would share the votes 50/50 with the televoters across the continent. These points were tied together until 2016, where two sets of points were given by both parties–the spokespersons would give the jury votes first, before the hosts announce the televote.

But what if there’s a tie?

Eurovision initially didn’t take tie votes into account–which posed problems in 1969 when four countries shared the top spot with 18 points. The prize was split, which led to four countries withdrawing for the 1970 contest. To make sure this never happened again, a tiebreaker was instituted. The first one lasted in 1988 but never used, had the tied performers sing once again, and the other countries raising their hands to decide a winner.

After a nail-biting finish to the 1988 contest, the second tie-break rule was instituted in 1989. If two or more countries were tied, they’d count back the number of 12s each country received, then the number of 10s, and then down the scoreboard. This became useful two years later, where Sweden and France tied for first place. Both countries received 4 top scores, but since Sweden gained 5 10-points to France’s 2, the former was able to take the win.

With a spirited performance and a wind-machine, Carola was able to snag Sweden’s third win. However, under current tie-breaker rules, she would’ve lost, as France had one more country give points to the song.

Currently, if two or more countries tied for the top spot, or a qualifying position, the number of televotes would take precedence. If they’re still tied then, it would go down to the number of countries who gave points for the song.

In the next article: Which countries should you look out for?

Published by Elda Mengisto

Frequent writer, aspiring scholar, occasional fencer. I'm a lover of all things beautiful and light.

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