'American Idol' Begins Online Voting

Will it change the winners? Some fans already complaining.

ByLuchina Fisher
March 02, 2011, 12:22 PM

Mar. 3, 2011— -- When "American Idol" reveals its top 12 tonight during the first live show of Season 10, "Idol" watchers will have a chance to see what effect the new online voting will have.

For the first time, "Idol" fans can vote online for their favorite contestants, opening up the show to more votes -- and more complaints of foul play.

"It has the potential to change who votes and why to some extent," Brian Mansfield, USA Today's "Idol" blogger, told ABCNews.com. "If you change the kind of people who are voting, you change contestants who do well and those who don't."

"Until we start hearing numbers, we won't have a really good sense of how much impact it's going to play in voting," he said.

One thing is certain: people will find a reason to complain about it.

"It will give people who want to complain about something, something new to complain about," Mansfield said.

In the past, fans have complained that block voting or "power dialing," which allows individuals to cast multiple votes at one time by phone call or text message, swayed the final results -- even though it is prohibited under "American Idol" rules.

"Idol" does not release final vote tallies. That only fuels voting conspiracy theories.

"Do I think there are significant voting irregularities in the show?" Mansfield said. "No. If there were, it's the sort of thing that could bring down the whole business."

To vote online, fans must have a valid Facebook account to log on to the "Idol" website, where they can cast as many as 50 single votes. Of course, you can still vote as many times as you want through a phone call or text message.

MJ Santilli, who writes MJ's Big Blog about "Idol," said the show is limiting the number of online votes in order to keep the volume down.

Already there have been complaints that voting was slow on the website.

By slowing down the process of online voting, Mansfield said, "Idol" is making it harder to "game the system."

It was only a matter of time before "Idol" added online voting. Many other reality shows that use audience voting, like "Dancing with the Stars," are already on board.

American Idol Season 10 Has Potential to be Exciting

"The reason I like that they added it," Mansfield said, "is it's really a way to insure that your fans have an emotional, physical and time investment in the act. That's the best development, finding ways to get people really involved in the show beyond just the two hours it's on."

Mansfield said several of his readers opened Facebook accounts just so they could vote online.

This season is off to a strong start. Tuesday's performances by the top 12 men were so well liked by the fans that Santilli said a few popular blogs crashed from all the comments people were posting. The top 12 women on Wednesday were equally good.

"There's a lot of promising talent and interesting personalities," Santilli said.

The new judges, Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez, have a way to go, however. "For the very first time, I was missing Simon [Cowell]," Santilli said, adding that Tyler and Lopez could have been more critical and she hopes in time they will be.

Mansfield is also giving the judges time to warm up. "Everybody is getting their feet wet, being nicer than they need to be," he said. "It's their first time doing this, so I'm going to cut them a little slack."

"It has the potential to be a really good season," Mansfield said.

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