It’s almost over. The final sprint to the Emmys begins today with online voting for about 18,500 eligible members now in progress and all ballots due August 29, two weeks from tonight. In recent years, with the advent of online voting and the expansion of the number of voters for each category, the Television Academy has made major changes that definitely can affect the outcome. With all eligible voters weighing in — rather than those who volunteered for a limited number of specific categories as in the past — such shows as HBO’s Veep and Game of Thrones suddenly became Emmy winners in the respective Comedy and Drama Series categories after losing year after year.

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The selection of Emmys has become a more widespread democratic process, encompassing a much bigger tent and representation of the entire Academy. In the past, as an Academy member and voter, I was able to vote in up to four categories  (two program  and two writing — the latter being my peer group); now I can cast my lot in as many as 20 categories in both the nominations and the finals. And for the first time, a new wrinkle has been added: Up until now voters had to rank their choices in most categories, assigning the appropriate number to each of the nominees from one to six or seven, depending on how many nominees there are. No more. Now voters simply check off the achievement they liked the most and are done with it. No more ranking nominees. The previous preferential system was designed to get a consensus vote from the entire Academy, which meant a voter’s No. 2 or even No. 3 choice could have figured into the outcome, even if his or her personal No. 1 choice didn’t make the cut. The Academy has streamlined things with this new voting system, touting it in emailed instructions to Academy members. “This year we made voting even easier!” it states.

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It will be interesting to see if it changes the trajectory of the Emmy contest. It eliminates the ability of voters to sabotage a nominee by sticking it dead last even if it doesn’t belong there quality-wise. For instance, someone working at HBO might put their key competition from Showtime in last place for devious reasons. There is no proof this kind of voting ever had an effect on the outcome, but you never know. Of course, if voters have a conflict of interest with a nominated achievement, they shouldn’t be voting in that category anyway.  The Academy has given voters explicit warnings on that as well as instructions to vote only when then have watched the required number of episodes of each entry. The Academy’s viewing platform, accessed in many wondrous digital ways, makes it easy to see any of the nominees. Under the new system, close races could even be more likely to produce a tie than in years past. At the very least, it adds intrigue to the whole thing.

Meanwhile, expect studio and network advertising to ramp up during the next two weeks as the final push for the gold is on. As I stated before, it takes a village to hand out Emmys these days, with a record 113 categories. The Creative Arts Emmys will take place over two days for the first time, on Saturday and Sunday, September 10 and 11. The Primetime Emmys air September 18 on ABC with nominee Jimmy Kimmel hosting.