By Stephen M. Silverman
February 26, 2002 11:03 AM

Halle Berry, Judi Dench and Sean Penn should get their letter-openers ready. The official envelope-licking is apparently near completion, because on Wednesday morning, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences is popping its Oscar ballots in the mail — thousands of them. Beverly Hills postmaster Koula Fuller is due to be on hand for the ceremonial mail drop, as are Academy executive director Bruce Davis and PricewaterhouseCoopers partners Greg Garrison and Rick Rosas. The accounting firm is responsible for overseeing the voting and making sure all the numbers are correct. (In other words, no repeat of what happened in Florida during the 2000 presidential election.) Two years ago, PricewaterhouseCoopers had placed the ballots into eight gray canvas mail pouches and delivered them to the back loading dock of the Beverly Hills Post Office (yes, that’s 90210). Days passed, and Academy members started buzzing about not receiving their ballots. The buzz made the news, and a red-faced post office staged an investigation. In the end, it was discovered that the mail pouches were mistaken for third-class mail, instead of first class. Academy spokesman John Pavlik tells the L.A. Times that the U.S. Postal Service and the Academy have taken steps to insure such an incident is not repeated. “We are now putting the ballots in plastic trays that the Postal Service uses for first-class mail,” he said. “More importantly, the Postal Service is watching the ballots from the minute they leave (our headquarters). The chances of that kind of thing happening again are pretty remote.”