Its a tricky, and it hasn't been helped by the early closure of the polls, so i apologise
One of the aims of the challenge is to build community so if someone joins the board with the name kinkyfan04, doesn't provide a location, interests, occupation in their profile and only votes in 1 category for one entry and doesn't want to get involved in any threads - then I can assume that person isn't interested in being part of the community. Their votes aren't counted - its pretty safe to assume they are only voting for mates - its admirable but not fair for others.
For the people who register, vote and disappear but can't make the effort to make a couple of "good job/well done" posts, whilst I'm thankful for the attention and i hope you enjoyed the comics but it is difficult to tell you apart from people who have just voted for their mates.
It's nice to assume that people won't vote for their friends because they are friends but having been part of these polls for a 3 years and 2 ozcomic awards, a pattern emerges. The use of multiple entry polls and 5 minimum posts rule helps keep it a level playfield.
The number of votes that were discounted was minimal - between 3-5 for each category. the discounted votes were for entries by people who had made public appeals for people to vote for them.
Decisions were made based on the rules, all evidence and past experience, all with the aim of being fair. What makes it harder is that it was a close race. And its not a perfect system, hopefully next year some of the bugs in the system will be worked out.
If people have suggestions on how the voting can be fair and still open let me know.
A panel of judges would be cool, but my experience with trying to convene a Panel of judges for the ozcomic awards did not go well.
Preferential voting works ok, but the poll has to be reprogrammed and i don't have the skillset to do that. But both these options will be reassessed next year.
On a related note
In the case of a tie, i've decided that the sponsor will chose who wins their prize.
So if there is a tie for 1st place, the sponsor donating the prize for 1st place will chose between the tied entries. The entry not chosen gets the 2nd prize, the placegetters thereafter cascade from there.