In what is gradually turning into a full-scale disaster of the short-sighted variety, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is running up against some serious complications with their shiny new E-voting system for this year’s Academy Awards. With complaints about the integrity of the system causing a stir around Hollywood, the Academy has no choice but to push back the deadline for Oscar voting, allowing confused/disgruntled voters a chance to grow accustomed to the new system.
The voting period began December 17, and was supposed to end Thursday at 5 PM Pacific. However, members are now being given an extra day to get their votes in, though the nominations will still be announced, as scheduled, next Thursday. Of course, for the less technologically-inclined, paper ballots remain available, with all votes tabulated by the Academy’s accounting firm, PricewaterhouseCoopers. However, once nominations are announced, the next round of E-voting begins, this time to select the winners…that is, unless everyone doesn’t just say “screw it” and opt for paper. (It’s like a grocery store checkout up in this mug…)
The Academy announced in early 2012 that it would be making e-voting available to members, and as is often then case in the move from analog to digital, the transition to the new voting platform hasn’t been without hiccups. In a recent Hollywood Reporter analysis, many Academy voters complained of issues with logging in to the voting site — something an Academy representative attributed to voters “forgetting or misusing passwords” – difficulty navigating the site once they were logged in, and even the potential for hackers to infiltrate the website and influence the vote.
“They should have had more lead time than, ‘Here you go; this is what we are expecting now,’” one Academy voter told THR. “We’re talking about many elderly people who are not that computer literate. They might think that it’s simple, but the simplest thing isn’t simple to many people…. There will probably be a large percentage of people who will just say, ‘Screw it’ and not even vote this year.”
Documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock tweeted just last week that “the password they sent didn’t work for my log in – and they couldn’t e-mail me a new log in, only snail mail.” Some even called it a “disaster” and expressed worry that the website would be susceptible to hacking. Others worried that frustrations with the new system could lead to low voter turnout.
I seriously don’t get why they didn’t give voters more of a head start with this thing. If they didn’t have it all ready, they should have just held off until next year. It’s like the Academy doesn’t realize that a sizable portion of their voting base consists of elderly folk (or all professions, whether actors, writers, makeup artists, or even songwriters) who aren’t used to this sort of thing. But even supposing that every voting member were tech savvy, the system still needs to actually work for anyone to be able to use it properly. Snafus like this, and we’ll end up with Best Picture nominee Playing For Keeps.
Of course, not one to see her product go undefended, Lori Steele, the CEO of the company responsible for crafting the voting system, went to bat for her company’s product. “Voting through our platform has gotten really rave reviews from most members and the user experience went through multiple levels of user testing with members and the satisfaction rate is extremely high,” Steele told Wired, regarding the extension of the voting deadline. “There have been some issues — as you’ve read — with passwords and that simply means the system is working, so those wouldn’t be the reasons that this would be extended.”
I guess we’ll see if this is responsible for any quirks come nomination morning, on January 10.
As for the big show, the Academy Awards air February 24 on ABC.