Questions And Answers About The Voting At Eurovision 2019

Questions And Answers About The Voting At Eurovision 2019

What Happened On Friday And Saturday Night?

Belarus’ jury vote reveal during the Eurovision Song Contest’s 2019 Grand Final was going to be one to keep an eye on. Earlier in the week it had been revealed that the EBU had disqualified the Belarussian jury from voting on the Grand Final. This was because members of the jury had revealed publicly the songs they preferred during the first Semi Final. Jury members should keep how they voted secret until after the Grand Final.

In confirming this to Eurovoix, the EBU also confirmed that for the Grand Final the Belarussian jury vote would be calculated by an ‘aggregated result approved by the auditors’:

The Belarussian jury voting has been revealed in an interview contravening Eurovision Song Contest rules. In order to be compliant with the ESC voting regulations, the EBU has taken action and has dismissed the Belarussian jury from the Grand Final on Saturday. An aggregated result approved by the auditors will be used in order to determine to whom the Belarussian votes will be allocated.

It was therefore a shock for many to see Belarus award twelve points during the jury voting on Saturday night to Israel. Not only was this Israel’s only twelve points, they were Israel’s only points of the jury voting. For this to be an aggregated result means somewhere else Israel must have placed high with the juries…which was visibly not the case.

Something clearly went wrong.

The Belarussian 'Jury' vote as broadcast on May 18 2019 (YouTube/Eurovision.tv)

The Belarussian ‘Jury’ vote as broadcast on May 18 2019 (YouTube/Eurovision.tv)

Members of the Eurovision community were quick to suggest what the problem was. Taking countries in the same pot as Belarus used to split up similar voting countries for the Semi Finals (namely Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia and Georgia) and averaging their jury rankings resulted in a jury score that was a perfect match for how Belarus voted.

…if you took their combined last place and flipped it around to be their first place.

Israel was ranked 15th, 21st, 24th and 25th by those four respective countries. This average placment of 21.25 was the lowest scored by any country, but somehow rewarded Israel with 12 points on Saturday night.

A ‘human error’ can be inferred from these numbers; the calculated average was ranked from highest to lowest rather than lowest to highest. The lowest average ranking song (which would have been ‘Chameleon’ from Malta) should have received the 12 points, not Israel.

The EBU have now acknowledged that this is the mistake, and on Wednesday May 22nd revealed a corrected ranking for the Grand Final before updating the Grand Final scoreboard.

How The Results Have Changed

The Belarussian jury vote is only 1/92nd of the total vote in the Eurovision Song Contest, and thankfully there is no controversy over our winner… it’s still The Netherlands, although ‘Arcade’ is now a slightly more impressive winner with a total score of 498 points compared to the 492 points that were revealed on Saturday night.

The changes that exist are further down the table. Sweden becoming the top Scandinavian country – leapfrogging the televote winner Norway into fifth – is the most notable swap. The biggest alteration is in the mid-table. Cyprus and Malta improve two places to 13th and 14th respectively, forcing Slovenia and France down by the same amount.

From a production perspective, the most significant change is that North Macedonia win the jury vote. With 10 points from the Belarussian aggregated score, Sweden’s last minute steal of first place on Saturday night would not have happened. Tamara Todevska would have held the limelight and be leading the Song Contest at the half way mark, and the final head-to-head in the new voting announcement procedure would have been Todevska vs Lawrence.

A Need To Catch Human Error In The Future

That takes care of the facts from Eurovision 2019, but what lessons need to be learned?

The wrong scores were announced on the night, and these could have had a much larger impact. Imagine for a moment a closer result where The Netherlands was awarded the Eurovision Song Contest victory on screen, but the true winner was Italy…

The most troubling aspect has to be the number of checks that missed the error. As the EBU press release takes time to explain, it is Digame who produced the aggregated result; then voting monitor Ernst & Young approved the final results; and at the final level it goes to Executive Supervisor Jon Ola Sand and the EBU team who give the final all clear live on the Saturday night broadcast. Nobody in this chain spotted spotted the upside-down mistake… although when it was announced Eurovision fans online raised digital eyebrows on social media.

Credit must be given to @Euro_Bruno for his analysis of the jury scores which raised the issue in the community which was subsequently picked up by the world’s media.

@Euro_Bruno investigates the Belarus vote (Twitter)

@Euro_Bruno investigates the Belarus vote (Twitter)

This is the first time an entire jury score has been replicated in this way since 2016, when jury scores and tele votes were split in the Saturday night presentation, but it is not the first mistake in process that has happened.

From individual jurors we have seen evidence of incorrect ranking orders numerous times. Arguably the most notable example is Hilde Heick, a Danish juror from 2016, who intended to place eventual winner Ukraine second last, but instead voted ‘upside down’ and placed Ukraine second. 14 of the 23 point advantage ‘1944’ had over ‘Sound of Silence’ that year was due to that mistake. Other individual jurors, including a number from this year’s Song Contest, have voting patterns that suggest they have voted the wrong way around. Ranking ‘upside down’ has been a problem for years and it remains a possibility that there has been a material impact in this year’s Contest in terms of countries who qualified for the Grand Final:

While the process to determine the Belarussian ‘jury’ vote is different to the ranking from an individual juror, the same mistake has occurred… Eurovision voting rewards those who get the highest points, but jury rankings start from the smallest number. It is easy to see how human error can result in these mistakes. This must be the catalyst to ensure there is increase clarity to the process.

One immediate quick fix would be for each juror and jury chairperson to write down which song is their favourite and input it into the computerised voting form to ensure the ordering has been completed correctly as a ‘check’ on the ranking order

Ensuring Integrity to The Eurovision Song Contest Voting

The Eurovision Song Contest voting is now a battle of two halves, with both jury and televote having equal value. After the EBU’s corrections to the vote, this year we have an unusual situation where neither televote nor jury winner are in the final top 5… and there is nothing wrong with that.

What a split outcome requires though is the need for a demonstrably clean, transparent and fair voting system for the Song Contest. This year we didn’t get that until four days after the live show. The Belarussian jury vote was an embarrassment for the EBU, for the artists involved, and also for the Belarussian broadcaster.

There are also ethics which need to be openly discussed.

Is it ethically correct to use other juries in different countries to ‘simulate’ a Belarussian jury? The countries used to assemble the points may be in a group of similar countries, but their results showcase huge differences. Russia for example received a 1st, 6th and 26th place ranking from those used to construct the vote. Azerbaijan scored a 1st, 2nd and 26th place ranking. Even politically detached Sweden received a 1st place and 9th place…combined with a 15th and 18th place. By accepting that you should take replacement jury points from countries that have a similar voting history, does that mean the result you calculate just perpetuates the perceived issues of political voting?

Certainly one argument to make that would have been to not include a Belarussian jury at all. This has issues for the TV broadcast – as we would therefore not see a Belarussian spokesperson on screen. However making Maria Vasilevich read out a jury score that was quite obviously made up has its own moral dilemma.

The Black Box Of Exponential Weighting

This is not an abstract question for the 2019 presentation. There are a number of issues around voting and point calculations that need to be exposed to public scrutiny to ensure the long term integrity and confidence in the Eurovision Song Contest results.

Firstly, in 2018 the EBU revealed an ‘exponential weight model’ to calculate the points from the 5 jurors. While good in that it mimimises the ability of one juror to destroy the voting power of one song, no set formula for this exponential curve has been formally revealed by the EBU.

ESC Insight’s Ellie Chalkly took a closer look at the system when it was announced last year:

This change to the jury scoring system is a welcome step forwards to a more competitive Contest. It rewards positivity, it diminishes the power of a single juror to negatively impact a song, and it allows strong but divisive songs the opportunity to achieve a respectable jury score ahead of the televote the following night.

Eurovision 2018 scoring chart, Ellie Chalkley

Eurovision 2018 scoring chart, Ellie Chalkley

While these changes are welcome, the formula requires a number of constants that have not been revealed. Without these numbers it is impossible for a third party to confirm the model is working as advertised. Essentially there is a ‘black box’  between the juror scores and the jury points awarded. If the Belarussian jury vote can be incorrect, can we have confidence in the rest of the jury voting process?

Returning to the suggestion that a juror has ranked incorrectly during Semi Final One, we cannot be certain of the impact on the qualifiers because we do not know the exact workings of the black box that calculates the jury points.

It is impossible for a broadcaster and member of the public to themselves calculate and ratify that the result is valid alone. We can model what the exponential curve acts like, but this is not the same as a clear and transparent system. One key model of integrity is ensuring that the model is replicable by others.

The San Marino Televote

As noted, it was a simple average of the juries in the same pot as Belarus that resulted in a correct calculation of the Belarussian jury vote. Each year since 2016 we have had to use a similar aggregate method to calculate not a jury, but a televote. Because San Marino uses the Italian telephone system, it is not possible to guarantee a televote is only made up of San Marinese voters. Instead San Marino’s televote system is “an average result of a representative group of televote results of other countries.”

San Marino’s televote construction sounds eerily similar to how Belarus’ jury result has been constructed.

JESC 2013 singer Michele Perniola reading out the points from the San Marino jury in the Eurovision Grand Final of 2014.

JESC 2013 singer Michele Perniola reading out the points from the San Marino jury in the Eurovision Grand Final of 2014.

Yet whereas the Belarussian jury score appears to have been mathematically simple to construct, it has not been possible to re-construct a San Marinese televote model since 2016. Even their Head of Delegation does not understand how the vote is constructed. Poland’s Tulia were two points away from reaching the Grand Final, and received five points from this constructed San Marino televote. It is easy to imagine if a different group of countries were selected Poland could have scored two more points and qualified for Saturday.

Hiding the process does not protect the integrity of the televote, it simply creates more mystery and raises more questions around the validity of the vote.

Improve The Design By Expecting Mistakes

Mistakes and human error happen, we all accept that. The key is to expect them and design systems that can allow them to be discovered and corrected. Having to change the results after the live show has embarrassed the EBU, Digame and Ernst & Young. Improvements to the design of the jury vote are needed to make sure it delivers the robust result that is expected by the millions of viewers and listeners to the Eurovision Song Contest every year.

However the EBU can not and should not stop now the Belarussian jury vote has been addressed.Clarity and integrity throughout the Song Contest’s voting systems are needed. This year’s incidents can be the catalyst for much needed improvements both behind the scenes and in the package that is presented to the public.

Categories: ESC Insight


If another country had suddenly won, the Netherlands would keep trophy and right to host

If another country had suddenly won, the Netherlands would keep trophy and right to host

Duncan Laurence with the 2019 Eurovision Trophy

Had EBU’s change of points yesterday affected the actual winner of the contest, the rules would have stopped the new winner from getting the honor that follows with winning the Eurovision Song Contest.

North Macedonia had suddenly won the jury voting, and Norway’s top five result no longer existed. Slovenia and France each dropped two places, while countries like Spain, Malta and San Marino gained a few – and United Kingdom got even fewer points than we thought. A total of 15 of the 26 countries in the 2019 Eurovision final saw their position changed yesterday. Another 8 lost or gained points but kept their positions, while only three countries were unaffected by this mess.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) were in the lucky situation that it didn’t change the actual winner outcome. Both the Netherlands in first and Italy in second place kept their positions. Had it been so close between them that this issue, which was due to a calculation error from EBU and partners, suddenly would have put Italy or another country at the top of the scoreboard, things would get really complicated.

It could be as easy as Duncan just handing over this trophy to Mahmood, and RAI then taking over hosting of next year’s contest. The rules of the Eurovision Song Contest however prevent it from being that simple. They clearly write that the winner is the one who, with all the information available had the most points – at the time of the announcement. That announcement is later described as being made on stage by the hosts in the live show.

The respective winners of the Semi-Finals and of the Final shall be the song(s) which, according to all information made available to the EBU Permanent Services by the pan-European voting partner, has/have obtained the highest combined number of points once the results of the National Audiences and of the National Juries have been added at the time of announcement of the results.

Rules of the Eurovision Song Contest section 2.3.3

If the results afterwards change so much that someone else gets more points – that rule makes sure that the winner announced in the live show keeps the trophy and the right to host the country in the following year. One can only imagine the pressure that would have put on EBU (and the Netherlands too) if this rule would have stopped a rightful winner – from actually becoming the winner.

We are glad that it didn’t happen yesterday. Glad that no one can protest against Duncan’s victory and we look forward to the 2020 Eurovision Song Contest, somewhere in the Netherlands.

See alsoPossible host cities for Eurovision 2020 in the Netherlands

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Serbian Nevena Božović blames neighbour countries for her disappointing result

Serbian Nevena Božović blames neighbour countries for her disappointing result

Nevena Božović (Serbia 2019)

Nevena Božović finished 18th in the final of this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. She was expecting a much better result and blames the other former Yugoslav countries for not voting for her song in the final.

Should you be disappointed if you don’t get as many points as expected from the juries in your neighbouring countries? Nevena Božović from Serbia has no doubts on this topic. Her answer is “Yes, you should!”

According to the Serbian Magazine Srbija Danas, Nevena was so upset about finishing 18th in the grand final in Tel Aviv that she left home with the first flight available after the winner of this year’s contest was announced. She was especially disappointed with the North Macedonian jury, who didn’t give any points to Serbia. Slovenian and Hungarian juries didn’t vote for Nevena either, and Croatian jury awarded her with only 4 points. The only exception was the jury from Montenegro, who gave Serbia 12 points in the final.

In contrast to the jury vote, Nevena got much more love from the neighbouring countries televote. Montenegro was again the most generous country with 12 points. Serbia got 10 points from Slovenia’s and North Macedonia’s televote, 8 points from Croatia and 3 points from Romania.

The Serbian medias were not pleased with North Macedonia’s jury not giving one single point to Nevena. One of those, who were especially angry about this fact was Marija Šerifović: Macedonia didn’t give one single point to Serbia? Did I see it right? Find out, who are members of their jury! Find out!

Even North Macedonia’s representative in Tel Aviv this year, Tamara Todevska, who finished 7th in the grand final, felt sorry for Nevena. In an interview to the Serbian magazine Telegraf she said:

I like Nevena’s song. She was unbelievable on the stage. Although I wasn’t involved in the jury voting and I didn’t know how they voted, I want to apologize for this injustice. Nevena has deserved points from our (North Macedonian) jury.

Tamara Todevska to Serbian Telegraf

See alsoTamara Todevska's historical result for North Macedonia creates headlines

It’s not the first time, we hear such complaints from this region. In 2017, Jacques Houdek critized his neighbours too. The Croatian singer was quite upset that only Montenegro’s jury voted for him.

You can get to know Nevena a bit more in the video below. We challenged her for a game of Complete the Sentence.

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EBU change Eurovision result – Quite some countries change position

EBU change Eurovision result – Quite some countries change position

John Lundvik (Sweden 2019)

Due to the issues with the Belarusian jury, the final scoreboard has been changed. The Netherlands is still the winner, but other countries find themselves getting a better or worse result due to this.

As the jury in Belarus was thrown out as they revealed their points ahead of time, a calculated result was set in place. This was to be calculated based on how the other countries in their pot voted, but unfortunately, an error happened and this calculated result was put upside down. This error has now been fixed. While it is good that it is being fixed, such a mistake must just not happen from EBU’s side.

It has furthermore happened in several juries this year that some members had their points in the wrong order too, and these would have affected the result too, but are not a part of this corrected result. This is only the part EBU is responsible for that has been fixed.

“The EBU can confirm, following standard review practices, we have discovered that due to a human error an incorrect aggregated result was used. This had no impact on the calculation of points derived from televoting across the 41 participating countries and the overall winner and Top 4 songs of the Contest remain unchanged.

To respect both the artists and EBU Members which took part, we wish to correct the final results in accordance with the rules. The correct jury points have now been added to the scoreboard and the revised totals for each participating broadcaster, and their country, have been published on eurovision.tv.

The EBU and its partners digame and Ernst & Young deeply regret that this error was not identified earlier and will review the processes and controls in place to prevent this from happening again.”


The new result moves around quite a bit:

  1. Netherlands (498 points) – previously they had 492 points
  2. Italy (472 points) – previously they had 465 points
  3. Russia (370 points) – no change
  4. Switzerland (364 points) – previously had 360 points
  5. Sweden (334 points) – previously had 332 points in 6th place
  6. Norway (331 points) – previously had 338 points in 5th place
  7. North Macedonia (305 points) – previously 295 points in 8th place
  8. Azerbaijan (302 points) – previously had 297 points in 7th place
  9. Australia (284 points) – previously had 285 points
  10. Iceland (232 points) – previously had 235 points
  11. Czech Republic (157 points) – no change
  12. Denmark (120 points) – no change
  13. Cyprus (109 points) – previously had 101 points in 15th place
  14. Malta (107 points) – previously had 95 points in 16th place
  15. Slovenia (105 points) – previously had 105 in 13th place
  16. France (105 points) – previously had 105 points in 14th place
  17. Albania (90 points) – previously had 90 points in 18th place
  18. Serbia (89 points) – previously had 92 points in 17th place
  19. San Marino (77 points) – previously had 81 points in 20th place
  20. Estonia (76 points) – previously had 86 points in 19th place
  21. Greece (74 points) – previously had 71 points
  22. Spain (54 points) – previously had 60 points at 22nd place
  23. Israel (35 points) – previously had 47 points
  24. Belarus (31 points) – previously had 31 points in 25th position
  25. Germany (24 points) – previously had 32 points in 24th position
  26. United Kingdom (11 points) – previously had 16 points

Furthermore, North Macedonia now wins the jury vote taking over from Sweden. Norway is still the winner of the televote.

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Three countries that need to improve: out of the Eurovision final for three or more years

Three countries that need to improve: out of the Eurovision final for three or more years

Geogia, Montenegro and Latvia 2019

Montenegro, Georgia and Latvia. None of them have qualified for the final for at least three years in a row. It’s beginning to look really bad for them, and the broadcasters must ask the question: Can we do anything to improve the results?

It’s possible to come out of a long non qualifying streak, but it is difficult. This year, Icelandic Hatari ended a four year long period of not reaching the Eurovision final. North Macedonia reached the final after six years out. Many probably also still remember how Anouk in 2013 made it for the Netherlands after 8 years being kicked out in the semi-finals.

Hard work, and very often a new approach to things is needed to come out of the dark and into the light of the final. When you have been out many years in a row, you simply need to ask yourself: Are we doing the right thing? Are we just unlucky or can we do more to improve our results?


  • 1 Montenegro
  • 2 Georgia
  • 3 Latvia

The broadcaster in three countries have to ask themselves that question now; Montenegro, Georgia and Latvia. All three countries have missed out of the final a minimum of three years in a row.


At the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest Semi-final 1 dress rehearsal

Despite being vocally quite good, D mol failed to reach the final. The song was perhaps a bit outdated, and the performance could have been better – much better.

It is hard to be six people, who all need equal space, on stage – and that Montenegro didn’t find a good way to solve. Them all dressed in white didn’t help either. It looked more like a dentist advert and it was hard as viewer to connect to the band.

The song Heaven finished second to last in the semi-final. The had been chosen for Eurovision after winning their national final where five acts competed. Unfortunately none of the five acts really stood out, and D mol won an easy victory.

Montenegro last reached the final in 2015 where Knez represented the country. His song Adio had the typical Balkan sound many of us loves. It was very well performed on stage, and no matter if you understood the lyrics or not, you felt the song under your skin.


At the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest Semi-final 1 dress rehearsal

Oto Nemsadze has a strong voice, no doubt about that. The staging also looked really good. What probably went wrong, was that the song was too easy to forget. It was hard to relate to. After the three minutes performance, another act came on stage, and poor Oto was forgotten. Also, an English title usually doesn’t help you, if the song isn’t in English too.

In Georgia, they used the Idol format to select their participant. In the final, four acts had made it, and they all sang the song which would be their Eurovision entry. Three songs divided on to four participants. Oto sang the song which another participant also sang. The song never became his – not when it reached the Eurovision stage either.

Geogia last reached the final in 2016 where Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz represented the country. Their song Midnight Gold stood out. What you saw was what you got, and they connected to the song so you felt it was theirs.


At the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest Semi-final 2

Carousel did bring a song, which stood out. One was able to remember it – but this kind of song doesn’t have a broad appeal. They came on stage between a strong Swiss entry and a Romanian one pretty much in the same style as the Latvian entry – and furthermore they were in the semi-final which most considered the toughest one of the two. In the first semi-final, Latvia might have qualified, but they were never to do in the second one – in particular not with Romania in the same one. Those two probably “stole” some votes from each other with the result that none of them made it.

The group was chosen via the strong Supernova selection. They were a top contender to win after winning first their semi-final.

Latvia last reached the final in 2016 where Justs represented the country. His song Heartbeat appealed to the masses. It was strong performed and you could feel the energy he put into the song.

This reflection article is based on the author's ownpersonal experience. Views expressed belongs to him or her, and are to be seen as unrelated to EuroVisionary.com.

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John Oliver admires Hatari on HBO’s Last Week Tonight

John Oliver admires Hatari on HBO’s Last Week Tonight

Hatari (Iceland 2019)

On his American weekly news satire program, John Oliver has taken a look at the Eurovision Song Contest – and Icelandic Hatari in particular.

“Last Week Tonight with John Oliver” is released every Sunday on HBO. In that, British born comedian John Oliver takes a humoristic, often critical look at the week that has just been. In the newly released edition, it’s time to tell the Americans that there is more than politics in the world. One thing for example is the apolitical Eurovision Song Contest, which he described as “being a bit like America’s Got Talent, minus the America, and frequently the talent”.

Hatari gets most airtime in the minutes he talk about Eurovision. John Oliver is quite fascinated by the anti-capitalistic band that represented Iceland at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. He calls it lovely and says that now it has finally been answered what would happen if you sprinkle fairy dust on a Criss Angel show! He adds that he would love to talk about Hatari all night, but there are after all more important things.

In the regular “And Now” segment, later in the show, where he brings up something extraordinary from the media landscape, he returned to Hatari. Here the show uses a collage of clips showing a more human side of the band like them giving each other shoulder massage, the lead singer revealing his celebrity crush to be Teresa May and them sending air kisses after qualifying for the final.

This isn’t the first time John Oliver has brought Eurovision up in his programme so we can only wait and see how he will react to the American edition planned to be launched in 2021.

With the song Hatrið mun sigra (Hate will prevail), Hatari finished 10th at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. They received 48 points from the jury, but impressed the TV viewers more who awarded them with 186 points.

In the video below, you can watch a clip from Hatari rehearsing their Eurovision performance.

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