Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences President Hawk Koch vigorously defended the Academy’s controversial new system of online voting when we spoke right after the nominations announcement this morning. He said despite the kinks and some complaints from members about difficulty in voting electronically that it actually brought out the biggest voter participation the organization has had. “It’s the first time, yes. But the first time you do anything of course there’s problems. Remember the first time you walked? Of course there’s problems. But the truth is we’ve had more people voting for nominations than we’ve ever had. And we had more people in each branch, every single branch had more people voting. So that portends two things. One, the online voting worked and two, everyone was excited about the films this year. They wanted to make sure and vote. And three, the questions about ‘oh has everybody had a chance to see all the films?’ Our members saw all the films,” he said breaking with the long held tradition of keeping Academy voter turnout totals secret and not commenting at all on the subject. There had been speculation the Academy’s sometimes-rocky transition into online voting might actually depress voter participation but Koch said that definitely turned out not to be the case according to their internal figures.
Of course the Academy has been under strong scrutiny for the way it has conducted its first foray into the perilous waters of online voting, something every guild and most voting organizations have been doing for the past few years. Because the Academy (which could be a prized target for hackers) has to be overly concerned about security and the threat of having their system infiltrated they devised a “foolproof” system involving the use of codes and passwords and special phone numbers for member verification which confused some members and angered others. Others I spoke with over the course of voting seemed fine with it, so it was a mixed bag. The Academy tried to accommodate everyone and extended the registration period by two weeks after the first Deadline article appeared on November 28, and later changed its rules to automatically send a paper ballot for those who didn’t register online. As more members expressed frustration about being “locked out” of the system the Academy took another unprecedented step and even extended voting by one day to January 4th instead of the original announced date of January 3rd. (more…)