Friday, March 09, 2007

American Idol - I demand a recount!

For this posting, I have to admit something that will probably lose me the respect of many, and yet I can't help it. Here goes... I am a closet American Idol fan. Every week, my wife and I go downstairs after the kids are in bed and we watch the most recently Tivo'ed episode of American Idol. We don't like the early rounds very much, which are mostly about watching the judges humiliate unfortunate people who don't realize they can't sing. But once the top 24 are chosen, we really enjoy the singing and the drama of who will be eliminated.

As someone who is consumed with voting and voting security, I have more than once wondered about the voting on the American Idol show. How easy would it be to rig the vote that is conducted over the phone? A friend of mine has some pretty good and convincing ideas for ways to tamper with the votes using computers and automated dialing tricks and even taking advantage of some weaknesses in the phone system. I'm not sure if the tricks he has suggested are legal, and I'm certain that most of the population wouldn't know how to do them. Although, it would only take one enterprising attacker to really mess with the votes. I'm convinced of that.

Last night, the unthinkable happened. Sabrina Sloan was eliminated and missed making the top 12. There are several reasons why I find it impossible to believe that the vote was fair. I had Sabrina pegged as #3 in the overall competition, after Lakisha jones and Melinda Doolitle. Okay, you could argue that maybe Stephanie Edwards is up there with Sabrina. But, American Idol is also about popularity and looks. Sabrina is by far the most attractive of the candidates, and in my opinion she has that star quality to her. She is also an absolutely incredible singer. I'm not alone in my thinking. All three judges were completely stunned by this result. Furthermore, Sundance Head (who I don't think was that spectacular) lost out and Sanjaya Malakar advanced. Now Sanjaya seems like a nice kid, but he's totally out of his league on Idol, and Sundance can sing circles around him. Not only that, Sundance has real personality and charm, and is just the kind of person that goes far in this competition. He's better than at least 3 of the guys who advanced. Far better.

So, is it possible that the judges are wrong? They can be wrong, but I don't think they can be that wrong about these two singers that were cut. Considering that Haley Scarnato and Sanjaya Malakar made it to the elite 12 and Sabrina and Sundance did not, I have to figure there was some funny business with the vote. I don't know if it was because somebody hacked the phone lines, somebody read the results wrong, somebody was paid off, or any combination of the above. But there is no way on Earth that America voted this way this week.

Having a non-verifiable vote, like the one on American Idol can result in people like me being upset that we won't get to watch Sabrina Sloan sing any more on Idol. We can be upset that Chris Daughtry did not win last year when he was by far the best singer, as his album sales are demonstrating this year. But, that's about where it ends. Having non-verifiable voting in public elections, with the doubt that such election outcomes can have, is much more serious.