The strike authorization ballots will go out to SAG’s paid-up members, anywhere from 100,000 to 110,000 of the 120,000, on January 2nd. The votes will be tabulated on January 23rd and the results announced the same day. (UPDATED: See just released SAG statement below. And the AMPTP’s response below that.) I’m told the decision was made to avoid the holidays and to ensure enough time for informational meetings. Only if 75% of the returned ballots are “yes” votes will SAG leadership be given a strike authorization — not a strike but an authorization to call a strike without having to go back to members for another vote — to help leverage the stalled contract negotiations with Big Media’s AMPTP. It’s less clear what will happen if the “no” votes exceed 25%  — though it could mean no more negotiations and the AMPTP’s last offer sent out to members to accept or reject. And if it’s rejected, well, SAG and Big Media are back at Square One. Here’s SAG’s statement:

LOS ANGELES, DECEMBER 10, 2008 — Screen Actors Guild today announced that strike authorization ballots will be mailed to paid-up SAG members on Friday January 2, 2009, and will be tabulated on Friday, January 23. A yes vote by 75% of members voting is required to pass the measure, which would authorize SAG’s national board of directors to call a strike, if and when the board determines it is necessary.

Screen Actors Guild National President Alan Rosenberg said, ”SAG members understand that their futures as professional actors are at stake and I believe that SAG members will evaluate the AMPTP’s June 30 offer, and vote to send us back to the table with the threat of a strike. A yes vote sends a strong message that we are serious about fending off rollbacks and getting what is fair for actors in new media. I am encouraged by the response of the capacity crowd at our Los Angeles town hall meeting Monday night.”

”We want SAG members to have time to focus on this critical referendum, so we have decided to mail ballots the day after New Year’s. We will continue our comprehensive education campaign and urge our members to vote yes on the strike authorization. I am confident that members around the country will empower our negotiating team with the leverage and strength of unified Screen Actors Guild members. Our objective remains to get a deal that SAG members will ratify- not to go on strike,” said SAG National Executive Director and Chief Negotiator, Doug Allen.

Ballots will be tabulated at Integrity Voting Systems in Everett, Washington. Passage requires 75% yes vote from those voting.

Here is the AMPTP response:

It’s now official: SAG members are going to be asked to bail out a failed negotiating strategy by going on strike during one of the worst economic crises in history. We hope that working actors will study our contract offer carefully and come to the conclusion that no strike can solve the problems that have been created by SAG’s own failed negotiation strategy.