Oscar® nomination ballots due

Today is another mile marker on the road to Oscar Sunday®: nomination ballots are due. The 5,777 voting members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences must return their completed Oscar nomination ballots to PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) no later than 5 p.m. PT today, January 23. Ballots received after that deadline will not be counted.

Prior to mailing the ballots on Monday, Dec. 28, 2009, the PwC staff made sure no duplicate ballots were sent and that none were missing. Each ballot is numbered to guarantee it is addressed to the appropriate Academy voter. PwC will tabulate the ballots using the preferential voting system (as you can see if the main photo).

Rule Five Paragraph 5 in the Academy's Rules & Eligibility states: "In the nominations voting, the marking and tabulation of all ballots shall be according to the preferential or weighted average system. Votes for achievements in motion pictures not on the Reminder List will not be counted in the nominations balloting. Tabulation of final ballots shall be according to the plurality system. No 'write-in' votes shall be counted on the final ballot."

This is the 76th year of counting Oscars ballots for PwC. Since 1934 only 12 representatives have led the balloting process, according to a PwC press release last year.

The process of counting each ballot has remained the same.

“Even with the technology advancements of the past 75 years, PricewaterhouseCoopers has never changed its process of hand tabulating the ballots to ensure the highest level of precision, discretion and secrecy,” said Rick Rosas, one of two current ballot counting team leaders, in the press release. “Our track record demonstrates the level of accuracy and reliability our Firm brings to the Academy and we look forward to continuing this long-standing tradition.”

While ballots have been kept safe under PwC's watch for 75 years, there were slight hiccups for the Academy 10 years ago, for the 72nd Academy Awards. Academy historian Robert Osborne describes these as "two grand glitches" in his book, "80 Years of Oscar: The Official History of the Academy Awards."

Three weeks before the ceremony was to take place on March 26, 2000, an entire batch of final ballots sent to members in Southern California went missing. After replacement ballots were sent out (in different color return envelopes), the missing ballots (two of the original eight mail sacks) turned up in the U.S. Postal Service's bulk mail sorting center in Bell, Calif., according to Osborn and an Academy press release.

"The nightmare wasn't over," Osborne recounts.

"The following Monday [in 2000], several crates containing 55 Oscar statuettes — essentially, the full supply for that year's ceremonies — disappeared from a shipping dock, also in Bell, Calif. With the clock ticking away, an S.O.S. was sent to the manufacturer in Chicago, which heroically cast, plated, polished and delivered another supply in time for the show. By the time they arrived, the AWOL awards had mysteriously turned up in a convenience-store parking lot, and three employees of the shipping company eventually found their way into police custody" (Osborne, pg. 339).

In the 10 years following the so-called "grand glitches," the Academy and PwC have not seen that level of commotion over the balloting or delivery of statuettes.

After the deadline passes at 5 p.m. PT today, the accountants of PricewaterhouseCoopers will being their seven-day journey of tabulating the responses and compiling a list of nominees, which we will learn in nine days, on Tuesday, February 2, 2010, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Facts from PwC, as of last year:
• 440,000+: Approx. number of ballots counted by PwC in 75 years on the job
1,700: Approx. number of “person-hours” it takes the PwC team every year to count and verify the ballots by hand
• 24: Number of awards categories to be tabulated for Academy Awards at a secret location known only to the members of the small PwC ballot team
7: Number of days it takes to count the ballots for nominations
• 3: Number of days it takes to count the final ballots


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