There has been a lot of confusion for members of the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences now that Oscar voting season is upon them. The Academy has implemented a new online voting system that will eventually replace the paper mail-in ballot members are used to (paper ballots are still in use this year, but anti-internet voters had to request them). The Hollywood Reporter spoke to a “wide cross-range” of members who itemized a number of difficulties they’ve experienced—insurmountable technical problems such as creating a password and then having to remember that password.
The fear among industry types is that the confusion created by a new system will deter many sub-computer-literate members from voting. A few of the people THR spoke to complained that a notice sent by the Academy, informing them that they could still request a paper ballot, looked like “junk mail.” One member posited that “There will probably be a large percentage of people who will just say, ‘Screw it,’ and not even vote this year.” Another added: “I have heard from several that it’s been a disaster and they wanted to give up. Confused and frustrated people will just not vote.” (Also: they were cold, and there were wolves after them.)
A spokesperson from the Academy claims that most of the trouble stems from members having difficulty with their passwords. THR reports that the passwords are created by the voters themselves and, according to Academy rules, “must be no shorter than eight characters and no longer than 16; it must include at least one alpha and one numeric character; and it must include one special character, such as !, @, # or $.” For example, “3DHobbitFan!” is a completely valid password. The criteria laid out by the Academy are common guidelines for any secure password (take note, all you people still using “12345? to log in to your Twitter or Facebook accounts: you are the reason I get those weird hacker messages urging me to click on a link to see the “shocking photos” you’ve found of me online).
The Academy says it is doing its best to “balance the opposing needs of convenience and security”, but some members liken the process to “break[ing] into the CIA,” a statement best explained by one member’s admission that “more than a few members don’t even have computers and/or know how to use the Internet.”
“It’s probably more difficult for members to log on than it is for hackers!” exclaimed one member, defying both logic and the will of the Academy in a single sentence. One thing is certain: people are very uncertain about this newfangled e-voting technology. The voters are confused and the Academy is confused about why the voters are confused. Most confused of all will be the awards ceremony audience, when the Academy’s online security is overcome by hacker hilarity and World War Z, not due out until summer, takes home the Best Picture prize in March.