OSCARS: Nominations Voting Ends Even As Online Ballot Confusion Persists Among Some Academy Members

Here in the desert as the Palm Springs International Film Festival is ready for its annual gala tonight which will be honoring many Oscar hopefuls from Sally Field, Helen Mirren, Helen Hunt, Tom Hooper, Bradley Cooper, Naomi Watts and the cast of Argo among others, the real talk is about the process of actually trying to vote for those nominations. Despite Herculean efforts on the part of the Academy to make the move to online voting work smoothly for its members, not everything was going nearly as well as hoped, even as some high profile members tried to submit ballots in the final hours of voting Friday afternoon.

Related: PGA Awards’ Best Picture List Offers No Surprises But Could Have Strong Influence On Oscar

“I’m absolutely furious about this,” one industry mover and shaker phoned us to say shortly after 3 PM (with just two hours to go in the extended voting period) to ask what he could do after submitting his Academy-supplied password but being “locked out”. He did call the 24/7 Academy help support line but says he was put on hold for 20 minutes only to be told that his password couldn’t be reset after 12 noon and it was too late. “In none of the material I was sent about the online voting procedures did it ever say anything about a noon deadline to reset a password. And I’m not a newcomer when it comes to the internet. The person on the line told me ‘I would be happy to reset your password later so you can vote in the finals’,” the frustrated exec said. As someone with connections he was able to get in touch with a top Academy official who forwarded a paper ballot to his studio office with just an hour to spare before deadline. And although the Academy’s online system was designed specifically because of security concerns this executive was allowed to simply fax his ballot back directly to Price WaterhouseCoopers (the Academy’s accounting firm) so it could make the deadline. In his case the new age of Academy electronic voting came down in the end to a hastily received paper ballot and a fax machine .

Another member told me how she became confused when a drop down menu popped up when she typed the word “Lincoln” in among her choices for Best Picture. “A number of films with the letter ‘L’ appeared including Silver Linings Playbook and Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. It was a little confusing before I figured it out and correctly selected Lincoln. I would hate to think I accidentally voted for the Vampire Hunter movie“, she said.

Over the New Years holiday weekend I randomly sampled some Academy members I was speaking with and also discovered they just weren’t quite ready to cast a ballot when reminded it was due Thursday (it was later extended one day to Friday, probably due to concerns that not everyone had enough time to vote after trying to see the large number of year-end releases). “Oh right. I need to ask my assistant to help me figure all this out. It’s online now, right?” asked one Oscar winning actor who is also contending for a nomination this year. Another Oscar winner with a possibility of a new nomination this year told me, “I actually prefer the old method of just filling out a paper ballot”. Still, many others I talked to had no problem with the new online voting procedures, even though a few admitted it took more than one try.

Related: Oscar Voting, PGA noms, Screenplay Picks – Deadline Awards Watch, Episode 7

And paper ballots may make a major comeback if problems persist. Many already requested to cast their votes with the old fashioned paper despite the new online option. As I have pointed out repeatedly the Oscars are a tempting target for any potential hacker who would like the crack the Academy’s system of voting (impenetrable for the last 84 years). The Academy is well aware of this and puts security of their process above all else, as well they should. That is why this system so carefully constructed with special passwords and codes built in. But if it isn’t broken some are asking ‘why fix it’? It has worked all these years just fine, but the frustrations of moving into the tech age may just be something a prime hacker-target like the Oscars doesn’t need. At least one other high profile awards voting organization, the Academy Of Television Arts & Sciences, still resists using online voting for the Emmys, and they probably won’t be moving to it anytime soon.

As one executive observed, “when the American Presidential elections secure online voting then we will know the Oscars are ready for it too.”

Nominations for the 85th Annual Academy Awards will be announced at 5:38 AM PT next Thursday January 10th.

  1. So, we can expect “Abraham Lincoln:Vampire Hunter” as one of the final 10 is what you’re saying?

  2. If “Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Killer” wins for best pic then we’ll know online voting was a really bad idea.

  3. So I am not surprised by the fact that the Academy screwed the pooch on this because they probably used people to build their tech as ancient as the institution itself. But at the same time, get it together people. Common knowledge: when a massive amount of people wait until a deadline to submit something online IT WILL CRASH THE SITE. Even some of the best sites crash (Netflix, Amazon, Gmail). How about this: don’t wait until 3pm to submit your damn ballot. As terrible the process may have been, the people having problems with this insanely innovative, complex, and never before seen “online voting” are just ad stupid as those that build the piece of crap system.

    1. “Probably?” Do you realize that you’ve practically admitted to not knowing what you’re talking about?

  4. Stupid. I voted yesterday morning — it took five minutes, was simple and intuitive. The only members who are having problems with this are too damned old to be voting anyway.

  5. Hasn’t voting been extended like three times? If they couldn’t figure it out by now, they don’t deserve to vote.

  6. I voted. It was a pain in the ass. The tech is easy enough as long as you don’t misplace you “code” – which, if reset, locks you out until the next day. Then you have to remember your password, created months ago, made from a mixture of numbers, mixed case letters and “special’ characters.” That’s not too challenging in truth, but the fact is i’m busy ACTUALLY MAKING MOVIES, i don’t gave time to screw around with this new crap. Paper ballots next year please.

  7. Disaster. It locked me out after placing only one vote. It wouldn’t let me go forward. I didn’t even get to vote in my own branch category–after attending all the screenings!!! I called and called the Academy Thursday and Friday to get reset–but when finally getting thru was told it was to late. The Academy REALLY dropped the ball on this one. They ought to scrap the entire thing–mail out paper ballots, and iron the electronic thing out for next year. For the first time in my 27 years as a dues paying and involved member of the Academy–MY VOTE DOESN’T COUNT.

  8. I’m a younger member who has digital experience and took me 4 times to vote (over 7 days). no reason why as I entered everything right, but the system was just spotty. I finally got to vote :) Just growing pains. I am sure next year will be smoother.

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