Will it be "Argo"? "Silver Linings Playbook"? Or will "Lincoln" finally take the top prize?
When the Best Picture Oscar winner is revealed Sunday night at the 85th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, it will mark the end of the 2013 awards season. And for those 5,856 members of the Academy (as of 2012) eligible to vote in this race, ballots had to filed by 5 p.m. PT Tuesday, Feb. 19.
Campaigning among the best picture nominees has been fierce as the deadline approached, but changing voters' minds is not the only obstacle faced by studios and producers in the sprint toward the finish line. For some members, how to vote proved just as vexing as who to vote for.
This Oscar race marks the first year online voting has been implemented. Many members welcomed the plunge into the brave new digital world while others found the adopted cyber system too difficult to navigate in regards to the initial registration process.
Immediately following the nominations announcement in January, AMPAS President Hawk Koch defended the Academy’s decision saying that despite the kinks and some complaints from members about difficulty in voting electronically that it actually brought out the biggest voter participation the organization has had.
“It’s the first time, yes. But the first time you do anything of course there’s problems," Koch told Deadline. "Of course there’s problems. But the truth is we’ve had more people voting for nominations than we’ve ever had. And we had more people in each branch, every single branch had more people voting. So that portends two things. One, the online voting worked and two, everyone was excited about the films this year. They wanted to make sure and vote."
Due to the high profile nature of the global event, the Academy devised a security system involving the use of passwords, codes and special phone numbers for member verification. A system that confused and angered many according to reports. In an effort to accommodate all eligible members, the Academy initially extended the registration period for nomination voting by two weeks and then went one step further and decided to automatically send a paper ballot to those who had not registered online during the advised time period.
Before final award voting began on Feb. 8, the Academy sent members a detailed guide to the new online voting process. To placate those still unhappy with the new system, paper ballots were offered as an option to any member who advised the Academy by Feb. 1 that they wished to vote via the old-fashioned route.
Academy officials shouldn't feel too badly about the initial reaction to the voting system. The Screen Actors Guild took seven years before they were comfortable that their online system was running smoothly enough to eliminate paper ballots.
With Tuesday afternoon marking the end of the voting period, all eyes now turn to Sunday night's ceremony which features Seth MacFarlane's debut as host, a celebration of 50 years of James Bond on the big screen and, of course, those sought-after statuettes handed out across 24 categories.
So the only balloting practices that really take precedence now are those devised by viewers at home casting their votes from the couch - no online registration needed.
The 85th Annual Academy Awards will air live on Sunday Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. ET on ABC.