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Academy Voters Try to File Ballots Online, Bedeviled by Passwords and Safari UPDATE

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood December 31, 2012 at 1:16PM

On Friday, Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences member Don Murphy posted on Facebook that he had sent in his Oscar ballot, "signed sealed and delivered." Why not use the brand-new electronic voting system? "Too much work," was his reply.
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Oscars
Oscars

On Friday, Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences member Don Murphy posted on Facebook that he had sent in his Oscar ballot, "signed sealed and delivered." Why not use the brand-new electronic voting system? "Too much work," was his reply.

The Academy took a calculated risk pulling the Oscar voters into the digital age via online voting and they have been naive about it. Not only did they ask Academy voters to see the year's movies in a shortened time frame--their votes are due by January 3 this year-- but to file their electronic ballots early in case there were any problems.

Sure enough, whoever designed the electronic ballot did so not only with complex hacker-prevention passwords that have bedeviled some of the Academy's 5700 members--the average age of the Academy voter is 58--it also doesn't work with Mac browser Safari. Some Academy members who are not Luddites still had to call the 24-hour help hotline, and were told to download another browser.

"I did everything right," protested one voter. "I shouldn't have to download another browser!" The next day the downloaded Firefox worked fine.

One publicist branch voter tried to log on Monday morning to vote for the Oscars and couldn't get the site to accept his password. There was no online help, only the help line, which kept him on hold for 15 minutes before he hung up. "Good thing I'm in Santa Monica and not, say, in London or Tokyo," he wrote in an email. "Contrast this with the ease of BAFTA online voting.  They've been doing this for 7-8 years, at least.  It's a no-brainer."

After browsing around the Members Only section of Oscars.org, he found that he could update his voting password by using his website password. The Oscar voting registration requires that members use a different password for voting than the one they use for Oscars.org, and demands--for hacker prevention-- both a number and at least one special character like # or $ or %, which means that most members can't use any of their usual passwords. Revise the password and takes 24 hours to log in to vote. 
"While I appreciate the need for security," writes the would-be Academy voter, "it seems to me that AMPAS has gone off the deep end here."

The alternative was to go down to the Academy office and use the assisted voting kiosk in the lobby. But the hotline helper had no idea when and if the kiosk would be available over the holiday. The Academy won't reopen until January 2. They may face some very long lines that day. And disgruntled voters.

So Academy members in LA, NY and London who want to vote can schlep to their local Academy office to use a kiosk. And everybody else will have to get their ballots in via snail mail or a working browser like Firefox.

If they don't, they won't vote. And that could suppress the number of people who participate in Oscar nominations this year. We'll never know, as the Academy does not release the number of people who vote.

This article is related to: Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Academy Awards, Awards, Awards, Oscars


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.