By Nicole Sperling and Glenn Whipp
The Los Angeles Times
LOS ANGELES — The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said Monday that it would give voters an extra day to submit their choices for Oscar nominations, extending the deadline for ballots to Friday at 5 p.m. The move gives voters 24 more hours to work with the academy’s new electronic voting system — and deal with an accelerated nominations timetable that has caught some members off-guard.
“By extending the voting deadline we are providing every opportunity available to make the transition to online balloting as smooth as possible,” said Ric Robertson, the academy’s chief operating officer. “We’re grateful to our global membership for joining us in this process.”
In addition to adopting electronic balloting as an option this season, the academy moved its nomination deadline 10 days earlier than last year’s cutoff. Nominations are to be announced Jan. 10, the earliest in the history of the Oscars. The academy said the change would “provide members and the public a longer period of time to see the nominated films” before they select winners of the Academy Awards, but the shift gives voters only a few days after New Year’s to submit their nominations.
Anecdotal reports of voter confusion over the online voting system have sprouted up, with most complaints centering on the cumbersome registration process adopted to help ensure the system is secure. For less technology-savvy voters, the process has proved to be confusing.
According to a study conducted by the Los Angeles Times last year, the median age of the academy is 62 — and only 14 percent of the constituency is younger than 50 — so a significant number of the approximately 6,000 eligible voters may be struggling with the system.
To ease the transition, the academy is providing members with a 24-hour call center to help with the process in addition to offering assisted voting stations in Los Angeles, New York and London. Also, paper balloting is available to anyone who prefers to vote the old-fashioned way.
Some voters and industry consultants said many academy members have been surprised by this year’s accelerated deadline to submit nomination ballots.
“That — not any perceived issues with e-voting — is the story of the season,” said a veteran awards season consultant. “I have spoken to so many longtime academy members who are shocked when I say, ‘Well, we’re almost done.’ They go quiet. They don’t believe me. They have no idea that the ballot deadline is so early this year.”
A number of academy members said they haven’t had time to watch many of the DVD screeners of films that studios have sent out in hopes of scoring nominations for their movies. “It’s fine to celebrate the nominated movies,” said a member of the directors branch who requested anonymity out of concern about remaining in good standing with the academy. “I just would like to think that people would have had the time to get the nominees right in the first place.”
Some awards consultants fear that because the nominations deadline is so close to the holidays, many voters will simply forget to submit their ballots. That came close to being the case for one academy member, an Oscar-nominated producer, who returned home from vacation Sunday to a voicemail message from a friend, reminding him to vote.
“I have to tell you, I’m conscientious about this type of thing, and it almost got away from me,” said the producer, who asked that his name not be used to ensure the confidentiality of his nominations. “I’d already promised a pal or two I was going to vote for them. I’d hate to think of that dinner conversation if I had forgotten.”
The Academy Awards will be presented Feb. 24.