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Did AT&T Stuff American Idol's Ballot Box?

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Wireless carrier might have put a fix on the voting frenzy.

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As paper trails vanish and the shift toward faulty technologies becomes unavoidable, allegations of voter fraud will continue to erupt after every election. In recent years, intimidation, ballot-stuffing and the providing of misleading information grew to be formidable problems for the country's most meaningful and prestigious ballot.

Yes, choosing the next American Idol is still a muddled mess.

And now -- a week after the show's eighth season finale -- winner Kris Allen may have unwittingly been a pawn in a game of corporate logrolling.

Representatives from one of American Idol's largest sponsors, AT&T (T), attended 2 parties in Arkansas that were thrown by fans of local favorite Kris Allen. The events took place after the final performance of the show, when viewers were able to vote for their favorite singer. During the festivities, the AT&T members provided free text-messaging services to the partygoers, and even taught them how to cast large blocks of votes for Allen.

The company never arranged similar services for Allen's competitor, Adam Lambert.

In response to AT&T's actions and Lambert's subsequent loss, fans of Lambert's have protested the results in droves on the show's message board, claiming he was the victim of voting irregularities.

As the only mobile phone network whose customers can text in their vote, AT&T not only enraged Lambert's supporters, but also bent the rules of the show. Block voting is frowned upon and scrapping those votes is under the discretion of the producers. And if AT&T reps allowed non-members to vote using their service, that's also in violation of the terms.

Fox (NWS) officials have yet to comment on the situation.

This controversy is hardly the show's first. In fact, American Idol voting disputes date back to its first season. Contestant Tamyra Gray -- whom judge Simon Cowell praised for giving "one of the best performances" he's ever seen -- was eliminated a week later after a suspiciously low viewer rating.

The final results of season 2 also drew cries of fraud after underdog Ruben Studdard won over fan-favorite Clay Aiken. From misdirected calls to groups actively trying to disrupt the voting process, American Idol's polls are far from trustworthy.

Let's put it this way: If American Idol winners were a governing body, they'd be the Iraqi Parliament.
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