It's that time again! This is copied/pasted from previous years; I updated dates and links but not all the examples. It's possible some rules mentioned have changed slightly, but I think you'll get the idea.
The Emmy Awards nominating ballots were published recently, and there's been a lot of buzz and excitement among some fan communities about people and shows "getting on the ballot." I don't want to burst anyone's bubble, but since I'm No Fun At All and feel compelled to address People Being Wrong on the Internet, I will try to insert some sanity, or at least some facts, into the discussion. (Please note: I'm not an expert, and if I've gotten anything wrong, please tell me!)
What's a nominating ballot?
A nominating ballot is a list of all the people/shows/etc. who can be nominated in a category. They have not already been nominated.
How do you get on it?
You enter yourself, basically. I believe that as long as you pay the entry fee and meet the eligibility requirements (basically that you're on the right type of show for the category, and it aired in the right time frame in primetime on a station that's available in 50% of markets in the US), you get on the ballot. There's a caveat that they can consider entries on an individual basis if necessary, but this is not a selective thing. Being on the ballot does not mean that anyone but you/your publicist/your show/your network thinks you deserve an award.
How do we know it's not selective?
Did you SEE how many times The Cape appears on these ballots? [Note: I should update this reference but it makes me giggle every time.]
So Bradley Whitford/Ian Somerhalder/other actor I love being on the ballot doesn't mean he got nominated or won something?
So how DO you get nominated?
Members of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences get the ballots and vote on who should be nominated. Each member can vote for a certain number of entries within each category (usually five or six). All members can vote in the Best Program categories, and the other categories are voted on by their respective peer groups.
When do we find out who's actually nominated?
And then what?
Then the Academy members vote again, among those nominations.
And the actual awards are given out . . .
September 18, right in time for all the presenters to plug their new fall shows.
Wait, what controls whether someone is on the ballot as a lead actor or supporting actor or guest actor?
The entrant chooses one of these three categories themselves. (I say "themselves," but the show/network/studio has some influence in this decision.) However, "guest" entrants must appear in fewer than 50% of episodes that aired within the availability period. So, for example, Rob Lowe entered as a lead actor for Parks and Rec, but Ian Somerhalder entered as a supporting actor for The Vampire Diaries. [Ah, how things change. This year Somerhalder entered as lead, of course.]
Who would YOU nominate?
Do you really want to know? There's nothing I love more than picking things from ridiculously long lists and being opinionated, so if there's interest I will construct my dream ballot.
I hope that cleared things up a bit. Questions? Anything I missed? Hit the comments!