Endlessly debated in the last political election cycle was the subject of voting irregularities.
Now, as the Oscar campaign season shifts into high gear, Hollywood seems to find itself grappling with the same thorny issue.
Voting procedures are weighing heavy on the minds of members and leaders of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. This is because for the first time in its history the Academy has decided to incorporate online voting.
The holiday season is typically a time in which the votes for Academy Award nominees are cast. However, for quite a number of Academy members the new voting technology is presenting somewhat of an obstacle.
Being acutely aware of the fierceness with which the pre-award competition generally plays out, Academy officials were understandably concerned that hackers might potentially be able to steer the final Oscar outcome. Consequently, the organization retained a consultant to administer the digital voting process.
Everyone Counts, the firm hired by the Academy at the beginning of 2012, has successfully worked in the past with the U.S. Department of Defense and the U.K.'s Ministry of Justice. In the Hollywood instance, the Academy’s objective was to develop a secure online system that could be used by Oscar voters in making their award selections.
The design that the company developed is so well fortified against would-be hackers, Oscar voters are actually having a difficult time dealing with the digital safeguards that were put in place to keep non-members out of the system.
Lori Steel, the CEO of Everyone Counts, recently spoke with CNN about “military-grade encryption” and explained that the company has used the encryption technique with regard to ballots for previous clients.
The company constructed an Oscar voting process, which includes a requirement that members create an elaborate second password after first using the password that allows access to the Academy website. Members must then enter a security code that arrives via a text message or telephone call.
New systems, of course, frequently have glitches, and the one designed for golden trophy voting is no exception. Some members told the Hollywood Reporter that after typing their passwords on three different occasions and being rejected each time, they were subsequently locked out of the system. They then had to call a telephone help line and endure the attendant extended wait times. Some members were even informed that they would have to wait 24 hours so that the password database could be reset.
“It’s easier to break into the CIA,” one member told the trade magazine.
Time is of the essence in this particular year because the deadline to return nominating ballots is Jan. 3, 2012, two weeks earlier than usual.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that the approximate 6,000 Oscar voting members have a median age of 62, and a sizable number of them do not own computers or use the Internet.
The Academy had pushed hard in its effort to induce members to sign up for online voting, going as far as to set up stations months in advance in the lobby of its Beverly Hills headquarters, where members had the opportunity to register for electronic voting.
According to the Oscar organization, a majority of its voting members have registered to cast votes via the Internet.
A major concern, though, is that some frustrated members will simply decide not to vote. Additionally, online obstacles may end up having an impact on the Best Picture award, a category that will contain five to 10 nominees, with the current front-runners being “Lincoln” and “Argo.”
If those Oscar voters who are more advanced in years and not as inclined to engage in Internet activity participate at a lower than expected rate due to impediments inherent in online voting procedures, it would follow that traditional-oriented movies such as “Lincoln” or “Les Miserables” may be at a disadvantage and more youth-oriented fare such as “Argo” or “Silver Linings Playbook” may be poised to benefit.
James Hirsen, J.D., M.A., in media psychology, is a New York Times best-selling author, media analyst, and law professor. Visit Newsmax.TV Hollywood. Read more reports from James Hirsen — Click Here Now.
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