Emmy officially says “hello digital age” and “goodbye paper ballots” as the Television Academy jumps fully into the online voting pool with the launch today of the first round of balloting for nominees of the 67th annual Emmy Awards. Ballots are due by 10 PM PT on June 26. Last year, for the first time, the Academy followed the Motion Picture Academy’s lead in making the slow switch to the digital age as far as voting for their prestigious showbiz awards is concerned. Unlike that original online start for Oscar, the Emmy experiment went off without a hitch, so this year it has been expanded, according to the original plan, to include not only round one of voting for nominees but also round two, when the winners will be chosen.
Additionally, the number of voters in round two will increase substantially under a new rule that allows everyone eligible to vote in a category’s nominating round as also eligible to vote in the final round picking the winners. Formerly it was done with “blue ribbon panels” who volunteered and watched each nominee at home. You still have to submit that you have seen all the contenders and have no conflict of interest, but the numbers really should rise, and it could affect a lot of races in making the final winners more reflective of how each branch of the Academy feels. All members who qualify under the expanded rules are eligible to vote in program categories, while peer group balloting (i.e. writers, directors, actors, cinematographers, etc.) is still in effect for the others. That is unlike Oscar, where every member gets to vote in every category in the final round.
The TV Academy has been busy sending out email and snail mail reminders to members, making sure they know their username and password and have updated email addresses and mobile phone numbers in order to get their authentication code. And now where it can get a little sticky for some members who have yet to enter the digital age, but may have entered older age, the fine print on these reminders says at the very bottom: “Please note that voting by paper ballot is no longer available.” That’s sort of radical. Even four years into online voting, the Motion Picture Academy still gives voters the opportunity to request a paper ballot — and by my own surveys, many members, both younger and older, continue to choose that option, surprisingly including even some campaign consultants I know. When SAG instituted online voting, the union gave it seven years before going completely digital.
There will be complaints about the total elimination of the paper ballot for Emmy’s 18,000-plus voters this year so soon after its introduction last season. However, last year I predicted the TV Academy would be getting lots of initial flak and there was virtually none, so maybe the TV industry is just a little more tech-savvy than everyone else. We’ll see. For those digitally challenged members, there is an Online Voting Helpdesk available from 9 AM to 6 PM throughout the voting period. The number to call is (855) 845-9201. But I can offer you some simple help right now: If you don’t have a laptop, get one. I have to admit I even forgot my username and password (and until recently I was even on the Board of Governors), but it was an easy click-click to retrieve the information, and the Academy’s response to my plea for help was instantaneous. Still, unlike other groups such as the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and SAG, there seems to be no other option for those not able to find a way to vote online. No alternative is being offered, at least on the website.
I happened to talk over the weekend with a longtime Oscar and Emmy voter, now retired from his trade as a Production Designer. He steadfastly refuses to vote online in the Motion Picture Academy (even once driving miles to pick up a paper ballot when he realized almost too late that he hadn’t received one) and also told me he won’t go online for Emmy either. But I think he is going to have to find a way around that. It looks like the TV Academy is firm on this. They want to save trees. Another member I called this afternoon , definitely on the high end of voters age-wise , was actually in the process of voting with the help of a friend who was navigating them through the process. They had to call the help desk which they said was very helpful. “It was more complicated than I thought. There is simply no way I could have done this on my own. No way. I still resent them (the Academy) for not giving us the option of a hard ballot, but that’s the way it goes I guess,” the voter told me. As for myself I voted in all 20 categories I was eligible and had absolutely no problem. The whole process was a breeze.
The nominations will be announced on July 16 at 8:30 AM PT, another new innovation announced last week as the TV Academy said they will be leaning more on social media — and another bow to the digital age — than the traditional network morning shows, which meant a 5:30 AM start Wast Coast time. Fox will air the Primetime Emmy show live on Sunday, September 20. That network doesn’t have a morning show anyway.