Worries that technical snafus with the Academy Awards' first-ever online voting system would lead to a record-low turnout were apparently unwarranted because there was a record-high turnout this year, according to the academy's president.
Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President Hawk Koch said Thursday that more votes were cast for the 85th annual Oscar nominations than in previous years.
"We got more people voting for the nominations this year than have ever voted," revealed Koch following Thursday morning's nominations announcement. "In each branch of the academy, in each category, more people voted than have ever voted for nominations, so that worked great."
The motion picture academy and its longtime accountants, PricewaterhouseCoopers, partnered with the electronic voting firm Everyone Counts Inc. to develop the new system. Reports of difficulty accessing it online raised questions about balloting for the annual competition last month, which prompted the academy to extend nominations voting by one day.
"I think it was a new way to do it and definitely a good way to do it," said Naomi Watts, who was nominated Thursday in the best actress category for her role in "The Impossible." ''It was bound to happen at some point. Maybe it's an adjustment for everybody? I don't know if that's the reason the votes ended up the way they did. Who can tell?"
In the past, Oscar voting was compiled strictly through paper ballots sent through the mail. The new system allowed members to choose between voting online or sticking with a traditional mail-in ballot. The academy said it made several voting resources available to members, including assisted voting stations in three cities and a 24-hour support line.
Several surprises and snubs in this year's Oscar race, perhaps more than usual, led some to wonder Thursday if the online voting system may have affected the nominations. Because of the highly secretive and somewhat complicated process in selecting Oscar nominees, it's unclear what impact, if any, the addition of online voting had on this year's field.
"It's like the saying goes, it's impossible to disprove a negative," said Scott Feinberg, awards analyst and blogger for The Hollywood Reporter. "Assuming the academy doesn't have a repeat of problems with the second phase of voting (for the Oscars presented Feb. 24), this issue will probably fade away in people's memories very quickly."