How Are Emmy Award Winners Chosen? Who Votes and Who Delivers the Sealed Envelopes

Have you ever been upset that your favorite series or actor got snubbed at an award show?

You’re not the only one. If it were up to audiences, the results might be drastically different. But Emmy winners aren’t chosen by the casual (or borderline obsessed) at-home viewer. Often times, voters don’t even see an episode of a nominated show until it’s time to vote for it.

Find out who votes, how winners are chosen from thousands of submissions, and who’s responsible for those super important envelopes.

How Emmy nominations work

Emmy awards

Emmy awards. | Evan Agostini/Getty Images

Members of the Television Academy are professionals in the TV industry. To be eligible for membership, they not only have to verify their employment and pay an annual fee, but also meet a specific list of requirements. To join the Academy as a representative of the music industry, for example, a professional must prove they’ve composed scores for a certain number of hours of television.

As of May 2018, the Television Academy is made up of over 23,000 voting members divided into “peer groups” that focus on a specific subcategory. But before members can vote in their respective categories, nominees have to be chosen.

To be nominated, “a program, performer, or individual achievement must be submitted.” Voters then choose nominees that “exemplify excellence.” There are 16 total categories that cover various series, actors and actresses, as well as writing and directing.

Before official nominees in each category are announced in mid-July (in 2018 members voted based on over 9,000 submissions), Ernst & Young accountants hand-check ballots after votes are first tallied.

Who chooses the Emmy Award winners?

Once a show has been nominated for an Emmy, its producers select its best episodes from the season for voters to watch. Individual nominees select their best work of that season.

All eligible members can participate in Award-Round voting. After watching the nominated content made available to them, they cast online votes and verify they’ve actually seen the content. This all happens before the end of August.

After that, award-round votes are tallied, and Ernst & Young accountants hand-check those ballots just like they check the nomination votes. But that’s not the end of the accountants’ responsibilities during Emmy Award season.

And the Emmy goes to …

Julia Louis-Dreyfus

Julia Louis-Dreyfus | MarkARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

A winner. Eventually. But first, that winner’s name needs to be printed and sealed within an envelope and delivered to the right place.

Printed and sealed, envelopes are secured in briefcases and hand-delivered — by Ernst & Young Accountants — to the theater where the awards show happens. They don’t get to be in “the” room where it happens — but they do get to hang out backstage, still looking after those envelopes.

They actually have one of the most important jobs of all that night. The accountants are also the ones who hand the correct envelopes to the presenters before they go onstage to announce the winners.

It takes months of preparation and secrecy between initial submissions and the moment the final Emmy winner is announced. But all that work pays off — especially if you’re one of the lucky ones who gets to go home with a statue.