SC attended the American Dialect Society's Word of the Year vote at the LSA conference this past weekend, together with the Tensor and Russell Lee-Goldman, and wishes to add a few things that aren't made clear simply by reading the press release.
1) The voting is quite informal, more so than the apparent exact counts would indicate. If something was an obvious winner on a show-of-hands, an appropriately large number was simply estimated.
2) Fish pedicures are new to SC. They were also new to a woman in the crowd who stood up right before the vote on "most outrageous word" to ask, "Is this a hoax?". After half the crowd responded with an enthusiastic no, she sat down with a look of horror that was completely understandable, but also the funniest moment of the event.
3) "Category" is a rather flexible notion. For example, the category of "Election-Related Words", which the Tensor theorized was intended to be a catch-all in an attempt to avoid having the whole event be about the election, 7 of the 11 election-related words to show up in the nominations (excluding the "word of the year" category itself, which consisted of nominations made after all other categories had been voted on) were outside the election category.
4) "of the year" is also rather flexible. "-licious" has been around for a while, a fact which actually caused the person who nominated it to withdraw it. "[name] the [job]", a category meant to encapsulate "Joe the Plumber" and his numerous namesakes, is a pattern going back decades as the other bloggers present observed (think "Rosie the Riveter" and "Bob the Builder", which both add a phonological constraint of alliteration). John McCain has been referred to as a "maverick" countless times over more than a decade, and "lipstick on a pig" is attested repeatedly in business contexts predating Barack Obama's 2008 use of it (here's one from 2000, and another from 2007).
Despite the hiccups, SC actually thinks the right word of the year was picked, that being "bailout". Unless there is a stunning and permanent change in the way the United States' government finances its operations and prints money, it is highly likely that bailout funds spent today will still be part of the national debt 30 years hence, and as much a part of the conversation about solvency as any entitlement program that exists today. Thus, your host will be rather surprised if his grandchildren don't end up griping about financing "The Great Bailout", as he suspects it will be known by then. Also, as the chair of the voting pointed out, it would be a lot easier to explain picking "bailout" than picking "Barack Obama" as a pair of combining morphemes (think "Barack star" or "Obamanation"). So well done, American Dialect Society -- bailed out by the bailout.