Stephen M. Silverman
August 19, 2002 01:00 PM

It’s getting so you can’t trust any election anymore. The producers of the Fox TV summer hit “American Idol” are complaining that their talent contest is being spoiled by “power dialers” who are trying to influence the final outcome of the show by making as many as 10,000 votes a night from a single phone line, reports the Associated Press. Michael Eaton, vice president of home entertainment for FreemantleMedia, the series’ London-based producer, told the news service that it appears that some 100 “phone phreaks” are responsible for casting thousands of votes with the touch of a single button, thanks to swift Internet connections and effective computer autodialing software. “They’re all over the country and they tend to be slamming the system at all ends,” Eaton told the AP. He would not divulge who the “phone freaks” were voting for, except to say the results have not been affected by the slamming. On the other hand, says the AP, Fox Broadcasting Co. has cited the immense calling volume as an indication of the program’s success. Vote totals have also grown accordingly, from 9.2 million on July 30 to 14.5 million a week ago. As of last Wednesday night, contestant R.J. Helton was shown the gate on the show, leaving four finalists — Kelly Clarkson, Tamyra Gray, Justin Guarini and Nikki McKibbin — vying for a $1 million record deal. The winner will be revealed Sept. 4.

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