Are 'American Idol' Votes Rigged?

Although thousands of "American Idol" watchers call in every week with their votes, conspiracy theories run rampant about computer programs that allow voters to generate thousands of calls for a single contestant in just minutes.

As another nail-biting week on "American Idol" continued, Sanjaya Malakar was safe again. Instead, Haley Scarnato was sent packing after the largest vote of the season -- more than 35 million.

But where do all those votes really come from, and why does the system seem to be shrouded in secrecy?

"As a democratic society, we think that anything involving voting is going to be incredibly fair," said "Good Morning America" technology contributor Becky Worley. "With technology today there are lots of ways to subvert the system."

"American Idol" tells viewers to vote by calling or sending a text message, but thousands of people have found other ways to give their favorite contestants an advantage, such as with "phone freaking."

"Basically, [with phone freaking] you download a program from the Internet. … Your computer becomes a power dialer that can make up to 1,200 phone calls a minute," Worley said. "That can shut out a lot of other people."

Jim Hellriegel runs a popular Web site that allows users to place thousands of calls for their favorite contestants with the click of a mouse.

"It's all about driving up as many votes as you can cast in a two-hour period," the computer engineer said.

Fox says the number of people who actually cast their votes this way is so small compared to the millions who vote each week that it doesn't affect the outcome one bit.

Some say an even bigger potential problem is computer hackers.

"That would be a pretty elaborate process, but if we are talking about someone who has money riding on this, say with an online gambling site, you can see the incentive," Worley said.

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