Your assumption is that the best story wins in these
contests. What makes a story the best?
from quality of writing judges will probably favor those that treat
subjects they have an interest in or know about. That is just
two or three people what makes a good story and you will probably get
two or three different answers.
the case of the contest you entered there were over 100
Just coming up in the top 5 or 6 was an accomplishment.
contests are probably more fairly judged than most, expecially those
with larger prizes that may draw many hundreds more entries.
it was in 2018 we had four contests and your category was the
smallest. When our top prize went from $100 to $200 we got
more entries. One reason we raised the prizes was that many
contest listing sites won't list your contest unless the prize is at
least $200. So we got listed in those places where we had
been listed before.
the high volume of entries became apparent I realized early on we
couldn't ask the outside judges to read them all so I gave each of them
a pass or fail as I posted them. My years as a book editor
me a nose for poor writing so fail grades were easy.
was hard was deciding on those that were good--how good? I
have time to tell just then.
so, taking out all I could at the outset, at the end there were over 90
passes in the biographical category alone and probably a total of 300
passes in the 4 contests.
had 3 outside judges and I could have no idea how thorough their
reading was. After a bit I realized that even though I might
picked other stories for my top few in each category we paid judges to
find winners so I let them alone to do it.
the judges gave me their picks I made a list of all those chosen in
each category and asked them to cut those lists down to 5 or 6 and then
to rate those top to bottom.
When that was finally done
I counted first places as 5 (if the list was 5 long) and last places as
1. So I had 3 judges lists with a possible vote of 15 to 18
the winner should they all pick the same story as first
Naturally they did not.
how it was done and I don't know of a better way to do it.
suspect some of the big contests just throw the names in a pot and pick
one. Who knows?
hope this answers your question.