April 09, 2007 07:45 AM by Joe Blackmon
The American Idol voting system allows people to vote multiple times,
and the exact voting totals per contestant are never released to
viewers. These two components of the American Idol voting system are
in direct contradiction to what Americans have come to value about the
traditional American political voting system.
Every United States citizen only gets one vote when they vote for an elected official in this country. One of the reasons everyone is only allowed to vote one time is because allowing people to vote multiple times would open up the door to abuse. Some people would undoubtedly find a way to beat the system and gain an unfair advantage over others in the amount of multiple votes that they are able to cast.
While it’s never been proven that this has ever happened with American Idol, rumors have run rampant of people using Internet modem dialing or hiring entire call center staffs to gain an unfair voting advantage. When these rumors have been brought up to American Idol producer Ken Warwick, he has denied that it has ever been a problem. According to Warwick, “We go into it pretty thoroughly, because if for any reason any doubt was cast on the votes, then, of course, the credibility of the show is affected. So we’re pretty hot on making sure this is all very straight and very level. Any kind of manipulation only has to come to light once and be true, and you might as well throw the show in the bin to be truthful. But no, there has never, ever been a situation whereby any technical advantage or this Internet modem dialing and all this rubbish; it’s just not true.”
Warwick also recently explained some of the safeguards put in place to the media. Warwick claimed “There is, as I said before, there’s an apparatus in place immediately to trace any single call out of the 30 million, 40 million we get, 64 million in the final, can trace it back. If there are any anomalies at all, they are pointed out to Telescope and they take the appropriate actions. But it’s never, ever been used. Never. In fact, I’m a little bit doubtful that it’s actually possible to be truthful. Otherwise I can’t believe nobody has done it.”
Even if someone attempted to influence the vote, Warwick said “I can’t comprehend the numbers, to comprehend 40 million telephone calls even. If you actually think about it, you think, “My God, it’s huge.” There is very little at this point, thank goodness, that can affect any of the votes that would actually change the actual positions of anybody.”
While everything that Ken Warwick said about the American Idol voting process might very well be true, he is ignoring one very important fact. Even though most elections or contests might have wide margins separating candidates or contestants, there are also some times when voting results are very, very close. One only has to look at the 2000 United States Presidential election to realize this fact.
While it’s all good and well for American Idol producers to reassure everyone of the accuracy of the voting process, allowing people to vote multiple times does open up the door for abuse. And just because it might not have affected American Idol yet, doesn’t mean that one day it won’t when the voting totals are very close.
And speaking of the voting totals, the fact that the exact number of votes separating each contestant are never released is another huge controversy about the American Idol voting system. The reason that many American Idol viewers want to know the exact voting totals is that it would give more credibility to the results. Just imagine if in political elections, we were only told who the winner was without being told how much they won by. Our entire American voting system is built on knowing exact results.
However, American Idol producer Ken Warwick’s opinion on providing viewers with more details on the voting totals is “There’s not need, it’s not necessary for people to know. It’s important that people know who got the lowest votes, and that’s all they need to know while the show is in process.”
Warwick’s fear is that if the exact voting totals were released that it could affect the results in subsequent weeks. Warwick has explained “Well, because everybody loves the favorite. And if it became like two weeks that the same people were at the top, it would draw people up to vote for those people. Everyone likes to vote for the favorite. Everybody likes to get behind the favorite. I just don’t think it’s right and I don’t think it’s fair.”
While Warwick’s opinion might very well be true, it seems kind of like an odd concern considering everything else that American Idol does that can sway the vote. Is it fair that some contestants get more screen time than others? Is it fair that Simon Cowell often predicts who is going to win? Is it fair that Ken Warwick himself said “I’m pretty confident, Sanjaya will not be the American Idol this year”?
While Ken Warwick might believe it’s not necessary for people to know the voting totals, Americans are always going to be suspicious unless they can see exact results because of events in our history such as the 2000 Presidential elections. Should American Idol set limits on voting? Should America Idol release exact voting totals? Weigh in with your opinion in the comment section below.