General News

Oscar Ballots in the Mail (Take 2)

By:
Mar 19, 2001 | 11:50am EST

Neither wind nor sleet nor an apparent boo-boo by the mailman will keep the Oscars from its appointed rounds.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences remailed the entire slate of 4,200 California-bound Oscar ballots to its stateside members Tuesday -- ending an odyssey (well, an annoying couple of days) that saw the powers that be behind Hollywood's most glamorous event obsessing over bulk-mail bins.

The new ballots will replace the ones that vanished after being mailed to California's Academy members March 1. (Another 1,000 voting members who live in New York and overseas received their ballots earlier.)

As of late Tuesday afternoon, about 1,000 of the missing ballots had been tracked down to the United States Postal Service regional distribution center in Bell, an industrial area south of Los Angeles. The remaining 3,000 MIAs were (horror of horrors!) believed to be buried under thousands of bags of more bulk mail, at the plant and on trucks.

Instead of waiting for the excavation project to run its course, the Academy decided to start over -- and remail. To avoid some lucky person receiving two ballots (and attempting to vote twice), the all-new ballots feature specially color-coded return envelopes (they're yellow, if you must know).

Additionally, the Academy is extending its voting deadline two days -- to March 23 -- as a make-good to previously shut-out voters.

So how did the all-important Oscar ballots end up in a bulk-mail heap anyway? Well, the post office mistook the Academy's first-class missives for run-of-the-mill, third-class stuff and treated it as such.

It's enough to make a regal golden statue feel like a common hood ornament.

"The mail was in gray sacks, the way bulk mail normally would be, so it was treated the way it looked," USPS spokeswoman Terri Bouffiou told Hollywood.com on Tuesday.

For the record, Bouffiou said the missing ballots were never really lost -- the postal service, uh, just couldn't find them. Bulk mail, you see, doesn't get the red-carpet treatment. As all the AWOL mailbags are eventually found, they'll be returned to the Academy, but that could take days more. The idea is to pull all the old ballots out of the mail before they're delivered so the voters receive just one ballot.

In any case, the March 26 Oscars ceremony isn't off -- and the folks at the Academy aren't peeved; on the contrary, they say they're impressed by how much the mail service did to correct the problem. (Examples: The USPS isn't charging the Academy for the remailing, and it's reimbursing other expenses related to the mishap.)

"I don't think anyone is mad at the post office. It's just a simple mistake," Academy spokesman John Pavlik told Hollywood.com on Tuesday. "They've been great. When they were informed of the problem, they went searching through every bag of mail in the city. They were more upset about it than we were."

Pavlik said the missing mail was first noticed Saturday night, when some attendees of the Academy's techie awards ceremony asked why they hadn't gotten their main ballots. Then, frantic voters (if not, nominees) began calling the Academy's offices in Beverly Hills on Monday, wondering what the problem was.

Pavlik said that a similar snafu occurred in 1982, although it concerned the ballots for Oscar nominations, not for the actual awards. Pavlik is sympathetic to the postal service's plight because, ironically, he worked his way through college at a post office in Minneapolis.

--With additional reporting by Joal Ryan.

More General News