From the Award Website:
The Indie RPG Awards were started back in 2002 to celebrate and recognize the drive and passion of the Role-Playing Game designers who wrote and published their works themselves, with minimal (if any) outside financial or labor support.
These "Indie" RPGs are often hard to find. When published in print, game stores often don't see them unless they are special-ordered. Often, these designers have to rely on, in part or entirely, the Internet to make their works known, or even to sell them if they are published electronically. They often slip under the radar of mainstream awards like the ORIGINS awards, Pen&Paper Awards, Ennies Awards, and many other awards that are based on popular vote. It's a shame, because many of these games, while often produced inexpensively, are competently produced, sound, fun games with interesting rule mechanics, play styles and settings. These awards aim to hopefully promote some of these games to the mainstream RPG public.
Except for the People's Choice Award, all of these Awards are voted on by RPG Peers only. There is no otherwise popular vote in these awards. This is to try to level the playing field in handing out awards. It would be, of course, impossible for each peer to play, much less read, every single game and supplement that comes through these (or any) awards; However, with tools in place like a weighted voting mechanism based on familiarity with the games, and a pool of peers interested in small press games from all gaming walks of life (both indie and mainstream), and a huge "research gap" time between registration and voting, we feel that all games that submit for these awards will have a fair chance.
Started in 2002 by Andy Kitkowski, the Indie RPG Awards look at indie rpgs published between January 1 and December 31. The awards are announced in the summer of the following year (so, the 2002 awards were announced in 2003, etc.). In 2006, Andy Kitkowski handed administration over to John H. Kim.
In September 2019 the award process noted: "The awards for indie RPG products released in 2018 have been delayed, but are still in the works." As of late 2020, there has been no change in status.