Academy voters are an active, engaged group who cast their ballots at a remarkably high rate – but the last time they voted, twice as many of them used old-fashioned paper ballots as embraced AMPAS’s new online voting system.
That’s the inescapable conclusion from the figures that Academy president Hawk Koch revealed for the first time on Saturday, and it’s hardly surprising given that the organization is largely 50 and older.
In a press release announcing changes in the Best Foreign Language Film voting process, Koch lifted the usual veil of secrecy to reveal that a full 90 percent of the Academy’s eligible voters cast ballots for February’s Academy Awards.
He said that was a record, and in interviews following Saturday's three-city members meeting, he added that it was "such an amazing number that we wanted to make it public."
In those interviews, Koch also offered the statistic that 96 percent of the voters who opted for the online-voting option cast ballots, while 87 percent of the voters who chose paper ballots did so.
(Voters were automatically sent paper ballots if they didn't request the online option.)
At the time, Koch said that he didn’t have a breakdown on the number of voters who used each method. But AMPAS had 5,856 eligible voters in the 2012 Oscar season, so the 90 percent figure would mean that around 5,270 of them cast ballots.
And from there, it’s a (relatively) simple matter of using high-school algebra to figure out how many members opted for each of the voting methods, given that 96 percent of Option A plus 87 percent of Option B equals 90 percent of Option A + Option B (or 5,270).
The numbers say that one-third of the Academy chose the new online option, while two-thirds stuck to the old paper ballots. (Anecdotal evidence suggests that some members voted online in the nomination round, but opted for paper ballots in the final voting.)
If one assumes that the 5,856 eligible voters didn’t change between the nominations mailing in December and the final vote in February, and that Koch’s percentages are exact (both of which most likely aren’t completely true), the numbers would break down this way:
Total eligible voters, 2012 Oscar season: 5,856
Total number who voted (90 percent): 5,270
Total paper ballots requested or sent: 3,904
Total paper ballots cast (87 percent): 3,396
Total online ballots requested: 1,952
Total online ballots cast (96 percent): 1,874
An Academy spokeswoman did not immediately respond to TheWrap's request for comment on our math.
Obviously, e-voting made healthy inroads, given that the 2012 Oscar season was the first time it had been used, and given widespread media attention paid to every quirk and hiccup in the system.
But with twice as many members still using paper ballots, it has a long way to go to become the norm.
Incidentally, even the e-votes eventually end up on paper. On the red carpet at the Oscars in February, I asked PricewaterhouseCoopers partner Rick Rosas, one of the two heads of PwC’s Oscar team, if the company dealt with the two different voting methods by printing out all the e-votes on paper, or by entering all the paper votes into an electronic database.
“We print the e-votes on paper,” he said. “We want to have a paper trail for everything.”
More proof that old habits die hard – for the Academy, and for its accountants.