And the Emmy goes to ... E & Y at the Emmys.
For the past 18 years, Ernst & Young has tabulated the votes that determine who will take home the awards.
"Projects like this really underscore the integrity and confidentiality that are the foundation of our profession," says Andy Sale, CPA, a Los Angeles-based partner at Ernst & Young who leads its Media and Entertainment Division for the Pacific Southwest sector area.
The process of tabulating Emmy votes begins months before the big show. "We tabulate the nominations," says Sale, who became involved in the Emmy count in 2001. "We handle the process from beginning to end."
Sale, along with two others at Ernst & Young, tabulate the votes in a variety of proprietary methods. "We combine the use of technology, and we also use good old-fashioned hand counting, so that everything is triple checked," he says.
Secrecy surrounds the vote tabulation process. "Myself and two other Ernst & Young colleagues are the only ones who know the final results. Nobody knows anything about the process--or certainly anything about the results--until we physically hand deliver the envelopes onstage," he says. "From the point of listing the eligible nominees to the actual physical hand-delivery of the envelope to the presenter, it's kept under our control."
This focus on confidentiality is manifested in several ways.
On the big day, Sale is handcuffed to a briefcase that contains the ballots, and counterfeit ballots are produced in case the briefcase falls into the wrong hands. "There are multiple sets of envelopes that we bring to the show, some of which are in the protective suitcases that we have," he says.
And getting to the show is a solitary act as Sale and his colleagues arrive separately in case one of them is detained for any reason. "There's a tremendous amount of security and contingency planning that goes into the process of delivery."
But all this secrecy can't hide the fact that Sale, who is introduced onstage at the event, is becoming something of a celebrity himself.
"I've met many a celebrity over the years doing this," says Sale. "It's interesting; at some point, they start to recognize you, year after year."