With final voting for this year’s Oscars set to begin February 8 with ballots due in by 5 PM on February 19, the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is entering into Phase 2 of their first year allowing online voting. As this column has repeatedly chronicled during the nominations phase, it was a little rocky, with many members vocally complaining about being “locked out” and unable to get into the online voting system using the passwords and/or security codes they were assigned. For some it took several tries at voting before succeeding, but as Academy President Hawk Koch told me on the morning of the Oscar nominations, the voter turnout was among the highest the Academy has ever seen, eclipsing the past several years.

But in an attempt to make sure every voter has the option they want and knows what they are getting into, the Academy today sent an email from Koch, CEO Dawn Hudson and COO Ric Robertson to members who had originally opted in to vote online. It offers them the option to switch to the traditional paper ballot for the finals. It read in part, “because some online voters had issues with the necessary security measures during the nominations voting, we are offering members who registered to vote online the option of requesting a paper ballot for the final round of voting”. Those Phase 1 online voters who want to make the switch must either call the Academy’s 1-800 number provided or email the membership department no later than Friday, February 1. That part is bolded in the Acad’s email just in case somebody out there doesn’t get the message.

The letter urges voters using online or paper to expedite the process this time. “We encourage all members to vote early so you have ample time to complete the process,” it reads. “We will be communicating with you throughout the voting process, and you can expect to hear from us again shortly with very specific instructions and information”.

There is always speculation about at which point during voting most ballots come in. In the past, Oscar strategists have said they know that several hundred have been “walked in” to Academy accountant PricewaterhouseCoopers offices on the last day, but neither the Academy nor PwC ever actually verifies when most people vote.

The email to members ends by saying, “Finally, we want you to know that we are working hard to ensure that the Oscar voting is secure. Nothing is more important to the Academy than the integrity of the Oscar vote. This means not only securing an accurate count but also making sure that every eligible voter who wants to cast a ballot gets to do so. We were pleased that the voter turnout for the nominations phase was higher this year than in the last several years, and we are looking forward to an equally robust turnout for final voting”.

The Academy also just issued a press release detailing final voting details. Here it is:

BEVERLY HILLS, CA – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced the schedule for the final round of voting for this year’s Oscars®.

Final balloting will begin on Friday, February 8, at 8 a.m. PT, and close on Tuesday, February 19, at 5 p.m. PT. To provide as many options as possible, Academy members who voted online during the nominations round will have the option of using a paper ballot in the final round. Members who have registered to vote online may request a paper ballot by contacting the Academy’s Membership Department by Friday, February 1.

Several voting resources will once again be available to members, including assisted voting stations in Los Angeles, New York, and London, and a 24-hour call center.

“One of our basic goals at the Academy is to increase member engagement. Despite some challenges, more members voted for this year’s nominations than they have in the past several years,” said Academy Chief Operating Officer Ric Robertson. “We are looking forward to a continuation of that trend in the final voting.”

Oscars for outstanding film achievements of 2012 will be presented on Oscar Sunday, February 24, at the Dolby Theatre™ at Hollywood & Highland Center®, and will be hosted by Seth MacFarlane live on the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 225 countries worldwide.