Members of Congress aren't the only ones struggling to meet a deadline this week. The folks behind the Academy Awards have postponed the deadline for Oscar nominations by one day -- to this Friday.
Apparently the first-ever electronic voting at the Academy is off to a rocky start. That could lead to record-low turnout among Oscar voters this year. Which could affect who gets to go home with that 8.5 pound, gold-plated statuette.
For 84 years, Oscar voters cast paper ballots sent by mail. While government elections and other awards contests have gone electronic, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences resisted. The big concern was security, says Pete Hammond, awards columnist for Deadline.com.
“The Academy is like the CIA or something,” he says. “It’s a really tempting target to try to break the secrecy of the Oscars.”
That’s why the new electronic system has a heavy firewall. Hammond says he’s heard from several members who’ve had trouble logging in.
“This could depress the voting turnout if people get frustrated and they say, ‘The hell with it. I’m not going to vote,’” he says.
The company that makes the voting system, Everyone Counts, says it’s working “flawlessly” and chalked any problems up to user error. “Passwords were distributed some time ago,” says CEO Lori Steele. “If people forget their passwords or type it in improperly, then the system naturally prevents them from accessing a ballot.”
The motion picture academy is giving members an extra day to sort out any glitches. Scott Feinberg, awards analyst with the Hollywood Reporter, says he’s heard complaints from members of all ages. But he says if older, less tech-savvy voters give up, it could skew the nominations.
“It might give a slight advantage to an edgier, younger-skewing kind of movie like ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ or a movie like ‘The Master,’” he says.
But big studio films -- with big marketing budgets -- may have another advantage. Voting started 10 days earlier this year, so Academy members had less time to watch everything. One director I talked to who’s on the short list for best documentary says he’s just wondering who’s actually seen his film.