Cullinan, currently in his third year as a ballot counter, is one of only 14 people to hold the coveted position as a partner for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences since his firm began tabulating ballots 82 years ago. In that eight-decade span, little has changed. The ballots, filled out by the Academy's 6,000-plus members, are still counted by hand in an undisclosed location, largely to protect against any hacking attempts.
Cullinan estimated that he spends around 250 to 300 hours meticulously tallying results. "Using a manual process as we do, that really helps increase the level of security, especially as it relates to things like cyber concerns," Cullinan said. "We don't really make a habit of talking about security, … but I can assure you there are a lot of security measures in place."
Part of those security measures are on full display after all the votes are tallied, while the winning envelopes are en-route to the red carpet tucked inside a black briefcase. Cullinan, along with his auditing partner, ride in separate, unmarked SUVs with an off-duty LAPD officer to the show, carrying duplicates of the results.
"I've learned they're really protecting the bag and the contents more than the individual carrying it," Cullinan joked.
That's not to say there haven't been light-hearted attempts by Hollywood stars to try to find out the winners ahead of time. Cullinan recounted an experience with Cate Blanchett at the 2014 awards, when he and the actress had a tug-of-war with Cullinan's top-secret briefcase on the red carpet.