Academy Members Sound Off On Oscar Voting Issues (Analysis)
Oscar-Nominated Songs and Scores to Be Featured in Special Concert
An abbreviated version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 11, 2013, issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
As Academy members select the nominees for the 85th Oscars -- phase one voting began Dec. 17 and will close Jan. 4 -- they are feeling the impact of two major changes to the voting process that were implemented by the Board of Governors: nomination ballots may now be cast online, but the deadline to submit them has been moved up nine days. (That number was 10 days, but the Academy extended the voting deadline by 24 hours on Dec. 31.)
These may not sound like earth-shattering developments, but they have significantly altered the balloting experience of the Academy's roughly 5,700 voting members, and might also impact the sorts of nominees those members select. The Hollywood Reporter first reported on this situation last week after reaching out to a considerable number of voters, and reached out to a whole new crop for this follow-up story -- virtually none of whom had ever publicly discussed e-voting before.
All members who opted to forsake a paper ballot in favor of an e-vote -- a "great majority," according to an Academy spokesperson -- were asked to create a special password for the voting site that met highly specific criteria. When they went to log-in to the site, though, many said their passwords were rejected, even though they made sure to enter them correctly. After three tries, they say, the site locked them out and they were forced to call a helpline set up by the Academy to assist people experiencing problems. Some were then given another password but told they had to wait 24 hours before attempting to log-in again; others were told they had to wait to receive a new password via snail-mail.
"We have to balance the opposing needs of convenience and security," an Academy spokesperson told THR, adding that most issues stemmed from members "forgetting or misusing passwords," and that intricate passwords are a necessary evil of e-voting.
Many interpreted that as a hint that the user issues were not the result of a faulty website, but rather with members who were unable to remember or properly type their passwords -- something that was plausible, since average age of Academy members hovers around 60. If this is the case, and older voters participate less in this year's voting than young voters, it would probably weaken the strength of traditional Oscar bait such as Les Miserables and Lincoln and help edgier, younger-skewing contenders such as Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom or Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master.
However, documentary branch member Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) wants to dispel any notion that it's just older people without tech-savvy who are experiencing issues with the website. "There's even some young-farts like myself that are having problems," the 42-year-old filmmaker says, adding, "It's not like it's the first time I've ever logged on to a computer."
When Spurlock called the Academy helpline after finding that he was unable to log-in, he recalls, “[The operator] says to me, ‘Well, you’re obviously entering the wrong password.’ I said: ‘I’m putting in the right password. I know what I filled out.'" When he asked whether a new password could be e-mailed to him, he says the operator told him it could only be sent via U.S. mail. Concerned that it wouldn’t arrive in time, he asked to be FedEx-ed a paper ballot, but he received only one of the two forms that he is entitled to fill out as a member of the documentary branch — not the best picture ballot. “I still haven’t gotten that,” he says.