Thursday, January 10, 2013

Oscar voting sham confirmed (Next stop: the White House?)

Posted By on Thu, Jan 10, 2013 at 2:21 PM

Aaaaand now it’s official: We will never, ever know who really won this year’s Oscars.

That’s because we’ll never know who was even nominated. This morning’s announcement has award-watchers scratching their heads over the “wildly eclectic,” even bizarrely arbitrary nature of the nods. But for the moment at least, nobody seems to be acknowledging that the likeliest culprit is the same enemy that’s conducting a full-on jihad against American democracy: electronic voting.

click to enlarge Cheer up, Ben: John Kerry got hosed, too.
  • Cheer up, Ben: John Kerry got hosed, too.

Remember, just a week or so ago, industrywide suspicion held that the Academy’s new online-voting apparatus was going to bring a distinctly youthful slant to this year’s nominations. There was going to be less room, it was said, for “conservative, traditional” pictures – the kind of movies favored by the older Academy members who were supposedly having trouble figuring out the arcana of Oscar’s new e-voting option.

But the complete lack of any such pattern (or, indeed, any pattern at all) in the final roster of nominees reveals something quite different. It shows that the “confused oldsters” cover story was absolute bullpockey, and that a full-scale system meltdown instead affected voters of every age and every degree of computer savvy.

Let’s look closely at that list. The old-school event picture Lincoln leads the field with 12 nominations, including its place in a Best Picture category that shook out largely along the expected lines. Meanwhile, the snubs in the Best Director category are brazen enough to give InTrade a migraine, with Oscar’s picks bearing almost no resemblance to those of traditional predictor contests like the Director’s Guild of America awards.

These are not the sort of results you get when the nature of your technology alienates a specific voting bloc. They’re what happens when balloting glitches are random and rooted in your system.

Yet not even The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg, who did such great work in bringing the voting difficulties to light, has yet weighed in on their likely connection to the “ baffling” nominations. Maybe he’s still waiting for a return phone call from Everyone Counts, the company that provided the Academy’s online-voting software. But all it took was my mention of EC in last week’s post for electronic-elections watchdog Brad Friedman to smell a very large rat.

As Friedman helpfully pointed out to me via email, Everyone Counts was the firm behind Honolulu’s disastrous all-electronic municipal election of 2009, in which citizens could only vote online or via phone. The system, as Friedman pointed out on his Brad Blog, was shockingly insecure and the vote count was completely unverifiable by the public. The result? A whopping 83 percent drop in voter participation  -- an outcome eerily predictive of the depressed Oscar voting Hollywood insiders have been dreading since the stories of the bungled e-balloting first came to light.

click to enlarge everyone_countsjpg

Why would the Academy put its stock in a company with such a checkered history? Well, never underestimate the pull of a former Washington insider. Everyone Counts trades on the resume of its Chief of Elections, Paul DeGregorio, who spent four years as the Bush-appointed head of the U.S. Election Assistance Commission. The Motion Picture Academy, which was for decades synonymous with Jack Valenti, loves the idea of horizontal integration between the entertainment business and the federal government. They apparently weren’t put off in the least by DeGregorio’s actual history at EAC, where he gave the green light to numerous inaccurate electronic-voting systems while attempting to quash research that debunked the myth of voter fraud. (Note: “Voter fraud” is the GOP-cultivated falsehood that vast numbers of Americans are voting illegally; it shouldn’t be confused with “election fraud,” which is the very real threat of electronic vote counts being compromised by software manufacturers and/or government officials.)

By the time of the disastrous Honolulu election, DeGregorio had moved to Everyone Counts, where he held the position of Chief Operating Officer. He introduced himself to their potential clients via a welcome video that has since been scrubbed from the company’s website, but which still lives on at YouTube. And it’s

it’s just

well, see for yourself:

[youtube ec_oM8HBG-0]

Yes, this is exactly the bunch you want to turn to for all your high-tech needs.

So the Oscars are now a sham contest entrusted to an inept and corrupt GOP hack. What’s the downside to those of us who have considered them a joke for years? The downside is that if we allow the real story of AMPAS’ e-voting disaster to be buried, Everyone Counts and companies like them will have one more “success” to add to their resume as they go about polluting the public contests that really matter. The folks who brought us this year’s utterly illegitimate Best Director winner could be the ones who bring us our next, and equally bogus, leader of the free world. And then not even Steven Spielberg will be able to do much about saving us from President Ryan.

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