Oscar ballot deadline looms

Do-or-die is 5 p.m., March 17

Better get those ballots in if you want your vote to count.

The 5,371 eligible voters in the Oscar sweepstakes have until 5 p.m. on Tuesday to get their ballots to Price Waterhouse in preparation for the countdown to the Academy Awards on March 23.

“They go off to Price Waterhouse and they disappear — we never see them again,” said John Pavlik, a spokesman for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

The votes will be counted by small teams working in relays — handing off to each other after a certain number of ballots — so that no one except the two final counters will know the results. Those two are Greg Garrison and Lisa Pierozzi, partners at the accounting firm, who will memorize the winners’ names, stuff the famous winners’ envelopes with appropriate cards in 19 categories, and tell absolutely no one.

“They have never slipped,” Pavlik said of Price Waterhouse. “We’ve never had a single instance of them releasing the information prematurely.”

The same cannot be said of the press. On Feb. 29, 1940, in the days when the Academy still counted its own ballots, the Los Angeles Times broke an embargo on releasing the winners’ names and published them in its early edition as the Oscar ceremony was taking place. By the following year’s awards show, the Academy had hired Price Waterhouse and made the entire process confidential.

“It’s important that it be kept secret,” Pavlik said. “That’s the whole fun of it.”

Ballots should be mailed to Price Waterhouse, Suit 2200, 400 S. Hope St., Los Angeles CA 90071.

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