Last-Minute Oscar Voters Opt for Paper Ballots As Others Encounter E-Voting Snafus

Oscar Statuette Generic Art - H 2013
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Oscar Statuette Generic Art - H 2013

The deadline for Academy Awards nominations, which had been extended by 24 hours, passes; noms will be announced Jan. 10.

Several members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hand-delivered their Oscar ballots to the Academy's Beverly Hills headquarters late Friday afternoon in the hours before the 5 p.m. deadline for nominations balloting, while others continued to experience online snafus as they tried the electronic voting system that the Academy is using for the first time this year.

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While the Academy has always encouraged last-minute, walk-in votes, this year there has been added scrutiny of the Academy's nominations process as the organization has attempted to make a transition from traditional paper ballots to electronic voting. Several Academy members today complained about the new e-voting system, which has drawn criticism. Earlier this week, on Dec. 31, the Academy extended the nominations deadline by 24 hours because of problems some members were experiencing in adapting to e-voting.

"According to our colleagues at PricewaterhouseCoopers," Academy COO Ric Robertson said, "voting patterns are cosistent with what we've seen in previous years."

“It’s definitely not smooth,” said one member, who declined to give his name, about the online e-voting process. The member had tried to log in to the system early Friday afternoon but gave up when the system wouldn’t take his password. He then drove from his home in Santa Monica to the Academy’s headquarters on Wilshire Boulevard to vote.

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A handful of other members, witnessed by The Hollywood Reporter , also came to the AMPAS building to hand in a paper ballot or fill one out on the premises after encountering technical issues with voter identification numbers and passwords not working.

Two members, including an Oscar-nominated editor, came in to use the voting kiosks located on the main level. Even there, the editor encountered log-in problems, requiring the help of two support technicians.

Another member, in this case an Oscar-winning screenwriter, allowed a THR reporter to listen in via speakerphone as he tried to cast his vote online. The writer waited until shortly before 4 p.m. PST to try to log in to the voting website, since he wanted to watch as many films as possible before voting. However, after logging in, he was prompted to click a button to be sent a subsequent log-in "member code" via a telephone call that was supposed to come within 15 minutes but never came despite repeated calls from another phone line back to the voting helpline.

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"They just f---ed it up," the member said in frustration. 

Amy Berg, an Oscar-nominated member of the documentary branch, was able to submit her nominees for the best documentary Oscar (the members of all branches that were picking from a shortlist automatically received paper ballots for that category), but reported being locked out of the system before she could vote.

"I couldn't vote in the end," Berg told THR. When she visited the website, her password was rejected three times, after which she was barred from making further attempts to log in. When she called the e-voting helpine, she said, "They said it would not be reinstated in time; it takes 24 hours to reset." She added, "It was definitely a letdown, as this was my first year as a voter."

It’s unclear how widespread such problems were, or if they may have lessened turnout in this round of voting. The Academy will announce nominations Jan. 10.

“I suspect a lot of people will skip this round but do the next one,” said the member who drove in from Santa Monica.

Rod McKuen, the 79-year-old composer twice nominated for best original song, strolled up to the Academy headquarters, envelope in hand, to deposit his ballot, but it was not because he encountered any problems with the e-voting system. He simply chose to skip that option, having tried and decided he disliked e-voting last year when he served on the Screen Actors Guild nominating committee.

“Thank God they let you do it this way,” he said, raising the paper ballot.