October 25, 2013 2:13pm PT by Scott Feinberg, Gregg Kilday
Academy Taking Steps to Simplify e-Voting for Oscars
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is making significant changes to simplify its electronic voting system, which got almost as much flack last awards season as the Obamacare website is currently receiving. The changes involve reducing the number of passwords required, making the VIN number assigned to each member invisible to users and making it easier to change passwords, The Hollywood Reporter has learned.
The changes, developed over the past eight months since e-voting was used by the Academy for the first time to determine winners of the 85th Oscars, come in response to gripes from members who found the online voting website, offered as an alternative to a traditional paper ballot, difficult to navigate.
The Academy sent an email today to its members, encouraging them to log on to their member accounts on Monday to pay their annual dues and to register how they wish to vote this year, either electronically or by paper ballot. The email outlined the improvements that have been made to the online voting process. Academy president Dawn Hudson wrote, "We listened to your feedback, and we improved the user experience without lowering the bar on security."
The changes address the biggest source of confusion last season: the log-in process. Because of heightened security concerns, members were required to use two distinct user names and passwords when the system was first introduced -- one to access the general membership section of the Academy's website (which many members are accustomed to using regularly in order to look up screening times, etc.) and the other to access the online voting website. Last year, many Academy members said they could not access the online voting website to fill out their nomination and/or final ballot.
The biggest change to e-voting this year is that members will now be able to use a single user name and password for both sites.
Additionally, last season, members were required to use a personal Voter Indentification Number, which they received by mail. Some found that added requirement confusing, and this year it has been eliminated from the process. (While the system still assigns a VIN number to each member, that number now operates in the background and is not visible to individual users.)
Finally, the Academy is making it easier to change passwords. Last season, if a member forgot or wanted to change a password, he had to wait 24 hours for a new password to be issued. Now, the change can be made instantly online.
"Online voting is convenient and easy to use," Hudson wrote. "Allowing you to vote from anywhere in the world and on any internet platform, whether you're on location, in the office, or on vacation."
In spite of last year's e-voting challenges, the Academy eventually reported, at an unprecedented all-members meeting on May 4, that there had been record voting-participation -- 90% -- in large part because of e-voting. While the Academy did not reveal how many of its members opted to vote electronically, then-Academy president Hawk Koch told journalists that 96 percent of members who signed up to vote online submitted a ballot and that 87 percent of members who received paper ballots submitted them.