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Is American Idol Voting System Un-American?

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.

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10 Comments »

10 Responses to “Is American Idol Voting System Un-American?”

  1. ML Says:
    April 9th, 2007 at 11:47 am

    It should be limited to two votes per phone line.

  2. Marie Says:
    April 9th, 2007 at 12:58 pm

    Why are we whining about the integrity and purity of a FOX reality show?

  3. Ed Says:
    April 9th, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    It may not be 100% fair that Simon predict, or guess results, but I don’t think it can sway results that much. Simply because everyone always wonders if Simon is guessing, or could he be wrong? or thinking, “what did that mean?”. In other words it’s all speculative and the audience knows that. Simon or Warwick can’t always be right. But if they released the actual vote totals, people would know those were factual. They just might start to get behind that “favorite” and that might ultimately change how people voted in an unfair way. Warwick probably has experience enough to know this. I’d like to see the totals too, but not at the cost of having people vote in an unfair way.

  4. Azatobes Says:
    April 9th, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    The votes were rigged last week.
    Gina was never in the bottom 3, the other two very often. Phil & Haley’s performances were terrible. I did predict that Gina would go when the 3 were up, which proved my first statement.
    reason #1: they don’t want the final 5 to all be female.
    reason #2: Haley is almost as popular as Sanjaya, and is the only cute rural white girl-next-door type with nice legs.
    Haley & Sanjaya bring in the viewers.
    Phil should have been voted off. He has nothing going for him on stage.

  5. Jossip Says:
    April 9th, 2007 at 5:23 pm

    Jiblets: Janice Min’s Contract Countdown

    Twelve weeks and counting for Us Weekly EIC Janice Min and boss Jann Wenner to reach a new deal before her contract runs out. Bravo buys TelevisionWithoutPity, tries to keep on screwing the freelancers. Meanwhile, Bravo’s…

  6. Ken Says:
    April 9th, 2007 at 6:13 pm

    Does it really matter- American Idol- top ten are getting record contracts and fantatic careers overall. This is a TV show- we are not voting for the US President. Just have fun- I have bought albums and songs from winners that I like in the past and will continue to do so. The really talent always comes out on top.

  7. Lakisha Jones official fan site Says:
    April 9th, 2007 at 8:47 pm

    Because this is America, a privately owned television show can do whatever they want.
    http://lakishajones.net

  8. cobbi Says:
    April 9th, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    America is the “Land of Freedom” that’s why you see this kind of voting on TV. More votes more money for FOX. How much FOX gets for every text vote? They don’t care who voted off, it’s all about the money. Did you know that in the Philippines, regular text cost only 5 cents for reality TV shows(the show gets only 25% of it)? Whereas, for AI is 99 cents. So if FOX gets only 20% of it, 40M votes=almost $8M. But of course not all of the voters use text messages. This season, I seldom watch the performance night, even the result night, I just read them over the Internet. May be I’ll watch again if Haley and the Indian boy voted off.

  9. Julian Says:
    April 10th, 2007 at 1:04 am

    I agree with Ken that it’s not important to know the exact number during the contest. This will unduly influence how people vote if you know the numbers (the numbers make sense after the season finale when there is one winner and one runner-up). Once in a while though, the wrong people get voted off too early because their fans feel that they must be safe, given their performance and so don’t bother to keep trying when the line is busy. It’s unfortunate, but that’s the nature of the beast. Fans have to stay committed and vote.

  10. Keira Says:
    April 10th, 2007 at 1:12 am

    always been skeptical about idol’s honesty. afterall they’re looking for their own stars to invest in.

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