Concerns over e-voting push Oscar nomination deadline back by 24 hours

Members are calling the Academy's first e-vote a "disaster"

Topics: Academy Awards, Oscars, Movies, Film, Hollywood, evoting, PWC,

On Monday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced plans to extend the voting for Oscar nominations by 24 hours, to Jan. 4. The move comes as a sort of last-ditch effort to ease the transition from paper ballot voting to e-voting, which has been fraught with technical issues, including log-in issues, voter ID mismatches and concerns of hacking.  The Academy’s chief operating officer, Ric Robertson, said in a statement that “By extending the voting deadline we are providing every opportunity available to make the transition to online balloting as smooth as possible.”

And indeed, the Academy has been working hard to make its first electronic vote seamless for its members, who, until Dec. 14 of this year, still had the option to vote via a paper ballot. According to the Hollywood Reporter:

A mailing went out several months ago offering members the option to vote by paper ballot, as long as they requested one by Nov. 30 — a deadline that later was extended to Dec. 14. The Academy subsequently sent paper ballots to any members who paid their dues but never replied with a preference. It also set up e-voting stations in Los Angeles, New York and London, where Academy officials can help walk members through the process. And there’s also a toll-free help line, with Academy operators available 24/7.

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But members reported technical issues soon after voting for the 85th Annual Academy Awards began on Dec. 17, telling the Hollywood Reporter that the e-voting system was so difficult to use that ”There will probably be a large percentage of people who will just say, ‘Screw it,’ and not even vote this year.” Another  member said, “I have heard from several that it’s been a disaster and they wanted to give up. Confused and frustrated people will just not vote.”

Everyone Counts Inc., the electronic voting vendor partnering with longtime Academy ballot tabulator and accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, has not yet commented on the system’s technical issues.

Analysts fear that the technical difficulties might shut out members from voting, particularly older members (the median age among Academy members is 62). Scott Feinberg, awards analyst for the Hollywood Reporter, told the AP, ”There’s considerable concern from many members that voter participation will be at record lows this year because the people who wanted to take a chance on this new cutting-edge system are either giving up on it or worried they won’t be able to cast their votes.” “If the turnout is lower among older members,” Feinberg added, “more traditional Oscar contenders will probably receive fewer votes, and otherwise edgier films that appeal more to younger people could fare better. Because of the way that best-picture voting works, it could increase the chances of a movie like ‘The Master’ or ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ getting in.”

The online voting system will be closed between 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT on Thursday, Jan. 3, to maintain security and accommodate an extended deadline, and will remain open until 5 p.m. PT on Jan. 4.

Prachi Gupta

Prachi Gupta is an Assistant News Editor for Salon, focusing on pop culture. Follow her on Twitter at @prachigu or email her at pgupta@salon.com.

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