DWTS Season 16 – The Great Voting Controversy That Wasn’t

It’s funny – when people were complaining loudly last season about not being able to vote on ABC.com, no one paid attention. Well, except for Shawn fans, that is.  We were told we just had to deal, that Melissa won fair and square.  Hmmm….maybe not so much.

Not so fun, is it, now that the shoe is on the other foot?  I’m writing this post to explain to readers why this season was actually MORE fair, in terms of voting, than last season was – and why I think ABC realized they screwed up last season and weren’t going to let it happen again.

So, ask yourself this – as a long time, or even new, reader of PureDWTS, what happens when a whole bunch of people go to the website at the same time?? Why, it bogs down, it crashes and only certain lucky people manage to get through. Now, our server may not be the greatest, and you would think that ABC would have a much bigger one able to handle a lot more traffic…right? Of course – but DWTS is also watched by anywhere from 14 to 16 million people. When you have one contestant with 2.6 million twitter followers urging all her fans to create new email addresses in order to vote, in addition to all the regular users of ABC.com for voting, you suddenly have a situation where the website can’t handle the traffic and it just crashes.

ABC, of course, handled it badly from a PR standpoint. A similar situation happened last season and they didn’t fix it, they let it go. This season they just took it off line. Instead of explaining to people why this was a legitimate reaction to a bad website, they just said “hey, it went off line so we’re not counting votes.”  Now, after a while, thinking people realize that this season is going to be the most reflective of the audience in general than any other season before it.  But most people aren’t going to *think* about it from a logical stand point. Not to mention that a good portion of them are tween Zendaya fans who can’t be faulted for their lack in logic. They haven’t developed that skill set yet.

Why is pulling it offline a legitimate reaction?  Well, how would YOU feel if the President of the United States was elected only by those people living in New York City, Boston, Atlanta….basically the eastern and central time zones??  Republicans would be SOL. Sorry, Midwest, west and Pacific Coast – you get NO say. Too bad, so sad.  The website crashed about an hour into the live broadcast, which meant only those people in the Eastern and Central Time zones who were smart enough to vote IMMEDIATELY had votes that initially counted (and those who have created accounts with Central and Eastern time zone zip codes, of course, regardless of where they live). Now, there were probably fans of everyone voting in that time frame – but how can you be sure?? How can you legitimately let those votes stand when you know for a fact that more than half the country had no chance to vote online at all?

The smart answer is – you can’t.

So, the smart TV executive engages his brain and says, “We have little to no trouble with the phones/text and facebook seems to be fine, so we’ll just eliminate the ABC.com voting entirely.” Good choice actually. He/she probably realized (or had some very smart techie tell him/her) that by eliminating the ABC.com voting, you eliminate ALL power voting capabilities. Simply – it becomes one person, 25 votes (approximately).  Two phones (roughly), two texting accounts and one facebook. Every person gets about the same amount. There is no crazy Maks fan saying “I voted 1000 times” or no crazy Derek fans saying “I voting 1500 times”…and no Zendaya fans saying they voted 500 times each.  Nope – it’s 25 votes per person, period.  As close as you’re going to get to a democracy on this show. Maybe they didn’t care about power voters – maybe the simply realized that having only one hour of voting wasn’t fair to anyone in the mountain and pacific time zones. And maybe the site was getting hit so hard they knew it wouldn’t come back at all. Hard to say.

Now, I’m sure some of you will be jumping up and down saying, “BUT I can make many facebook accounts.”  Well, it’s not as easy as it is for ABC.com accounts. In fact, I tried to make a second account for my website and it’s just not that simple.  Others will claim, “But there are still ways to vote multiple times on facebook.”  Yeahhhh…not sure that actually works. It’s much easier to cull out duplicate votes by one facebook account than it is multiple ABC.com accounts. I wager most people don’t bother to try to figure all that out.  Everyone is capable of finding ways around the system, but I doubt that many people spend much time doing just that. In any case, there was no time for that this season. In future seasons there might be – but not this one. Sure, people can go grab phones of everyone they know and I’m sure they do – but you’re still likely to be limited to less than 50 votes per person.  And everyone is going to do that regardless of who they are a fan of.  The point is: instead of having fan groups with hundreds of accounts and the ability to sway the winner in a given direction, it’s much closer to a simple democracy – he/she with the most votes wins. NOT he/she with the most power voters wins. An important distinction.

That is significant because a lot of Zendaya fans are crying foul. I’m telling them they have no grounds.  No grounds at all. “But…but…you didn’t count my online votes. Zendaya would have won if you had!!” Umm….no. ALL fan’s votes got eliminated. Fans of Zendaya, fans of Kellie, fans of Jacoby and fans of Aly – ALL of them had votes on ABC.com thrown out. Adding those votes back in does not automatically mean that Zendaya would win, that’s just silly and childish.  And completely illogical.  We have no way of knowing what impact that would have had on the outcome. What we do know is that the outcome we got is far more reflective of the general public than any previous vote on DWTS.  I would even guess, since Boston (Aly) and Baltimore (Raven fans for Jacoby) were in the mix that got dumped and those two danced early in the show that THEY had more votes dumped than anyone else. Just a guess. Kellie had Nashville (central time zone) voting for her so she’s in that block as well. Three of the four finalists had their hometowns in the time zones that had a chance to vote – and you still think Zendaya was the one who got robbed? Nope – ALL the finalists had votes eliminated and it is NOT a sure thing that Zendaya was the one affected the most. The opposite is likely, in fact.

As for the claim that eliminating online voting impacted Zendaya more than any other couple?? Also a ridiculous claim.  The average viewer of this show is middle aged and female…actually I think the median age was something like 62. So, kids, does grandma have facebook?? I bet that the vast majority of the time, the answer is NO. How many of the average tweens/teens has facebook?? Probably ALL of them, correct??  I’m afraid the reality is that the elimination of online voting impacted Kellie and Jacoby fans more than either Zendaya or Aly – I just think those two fanbases skew older than Zen’s or Aly’s. I also think that Kellie and Jacoby fans are much more likely to rely on abc.com than facebook. Frankly, the only reason that Zendaya fans are making this claim is because they were robbed of the ability to power vote as instructed by Zendaya herself. But then – everyone was robbed of that ability. While not *against* the rules, per se, it’s not exactly a way to vote that is promoted by ABC – in fact, they went through the process of making all email addresses be validated in the attempt to make power voting HARDER. So, if they eliminate that ability altogether, you can hardly claim you’ve been wronged.

Another thing I heard some complaining about was “But, international fans didn’t get to vote!!” I believe Sharna even pulled this one out. My response is….”So?”  Why is it important for international fans to vote on an American TV show and why should anyone care if they don’t?  ABC won’t care except for the money from the website hits…but international fans don’t count toward the demo, they don’t count towards total viewers….why should they get a say in who wins??  I’m seriously asking this question – I have no idea why this is important to anyone OTHER than people who are of a different nationality dancing on the show.  From my point of view, I’ve encouraged it of Derek’s international fans for sure, but I don’t find it to be particularly important if NO ONE’s international fans are allowed to vote. Same issue at play – EVERYONE’s international fans have been eliminated. All the couples are treated the same.

I do think that, once upon a time, power voters had far less power than they do now. I think now pro fanbases together have the power to decide who wins – which is why I think, under normal circumstances for this show, that Derek will never win again. Why do I think this? Well, as the ratings go down, I imagine (and I AM only imagining, I have no way of knowing) that the number of average viewers voting actually goes down as well. I think it’s entirely possible that the numbers of people voting goes down faster than the number of viewers does – the price you pay for obvious manipulation (but that’s another post). As you reduce the number of average viewers voting, you increase the power of the voting blocks. A relatively simple math problem.  When all the pro fanbases look at Derek and see the possibility of MBT#5?? They will all – without any coordination – vote for someone else.  And at this point, I can’t really blame them for that.  I think that’s what they did LAST season. I think a big factor in Melissa winning was the pro fanbases all voting *against* Derek and Shawn.  In addition to all the other factors in play.  Add in the highly flawed online voting – nearly as flawed as this season only left on line with all votes counted?? And you have one highly flawed outcome.  I’m sure all the Melissa fans, who are also fans of Val/Zendaya had NO problem with that outcome, right?? Well, you can’t have them all go your way, and you also can’t claim this season was unfair after last season – last season the better dancer didn’t win, but you did. Fact is, you didn’t have the opportunity to spam your way to victory – this season it’s “one person, 25 votes”. If everyone gets the same number of votes, then the outcome is reflective of the average viewer/voter and not power voters. That’s perfectly fair – and you have no way of knowing that you would have won WITH the ability to power vote. Note – I’m not saying that power voting is unfair, and I’ve done it a time or two myself. If ABC wanted to do away with that ability, they very easily could. But they don’t, either because they would have to spend money do to it, or it would cost them money from website hits. Either way – since they haven’t prevented it, only made it harder, then they can hardly claim it’s “unfair” to power vote. BUT, by the same token, when they eliminate that ability WE don’t get to claim it’s unfair. On the contrary.

Now, ask yourself this – why was ABC so quick to take ABC.com voting off line?? Why not try to fix it? And why did they handle it so badly?? Well, that last one is easy – they didn’t think it would be that big a deal. They made the mistake of thinking that if they threw out EVERYONE’s votes, then it was fair and everyone would recognize that.  Silly boys.  You need to explain more for those who are blinded by righteous indignation. Or who aren’t smart enough to figure it out.  Usually, you guys assume your audience is dumb…why the sudden switch to assuming they were smart??

Why did they take it off line so quickly and not try to fix it?? Of course I have a theory. I think they know that they bungled it last season and they weren’t going to live with that again.  Last season was nearly as bad in terms of online voting – hard time getting through, couldn’t get the site to load and so on. Last season they let it go, tried fixes, let the votes count. I am NOT saying that Shawn would have won if they had done it the way they did this season – not at all. I think for a variety of reasons, all previously discussed, things were just going Melissa’s way. I don’t think they cared who won last season and we will never know in any case. But I do think they care about the “integrity” of their voting system and perhaps they recognize the danger in that system being called into question. Hell, maybe they got audited.  There are rules for voting in competition shows, I’m sure.  So, when this season rolled around and they saw the same issues but only WORSE, they threw in the towel. I’m sure one of their brain trusts is smart enough to realize the whole system is more fair (although still not perfect) when you eliminate that aspect.  In a way, I think that Zendaya and her fans did it to themselves – you can’t tell your 2.6 million tween twitter followers (the most passionate of passionate, tweens are) to create new email accounts and register them online and expect them to not listen. They did what you told them to do every day for a week leading up to the finale. Then it all came home to roost on Monday night – they took all those emails and bombarded the ABC.com site right when you told them too (along with all the other power voters)  – and boom! Site crashes.  ABC takes it off line and EVERYONE is limited to their 20 or so votes. One person, one vote (not literally) is about as fair as you can get.

I vote that abc.com voting be eliminated completely from now on. Have the average viewer decide the winner. Will they do that? Probably not.  I think there is too much cash tied to online voting for them to eliminate it or at least narrow the time frame you can do it in.  But I think the results would be more interesting.