Open Letter to the Producers of “The Voice”


Dear Producers of The Voice:

Congratulations on The Voice, an inspiring show that captures the basic American values of “from out of nowhere” success — I cheered the young farm boy whose previous experience was singing to his cows while baling hay, cheered that country western singer who sang at the local bowling alley next to the Piggly Wiggly, and then cheered her sudden nationwide fame. This is what America is all about, a place where dreams can surely come true.

And the winner is chosen by us, the viewers. Our votes are a real test of popularity, not an arbitrary decision by a fat-cat executive who wants to give his warble-throated niece a boost, or an underpaid intern who easily succumbs to the barely-disguised bribe of courtside seats at the Knicks game. The Voice is the essence of democracy and the American way of life.

At least that’s what I thought until I tried to participate in your voting process.

I was shocked, Shocked, SHOCKED to discover I can vote 10 times. In fact, I can vote 10 times per email address, so the number of my votes is only limited by my determination to pull an all-nighter creating ephemeral addresses. Then I can additionally vote by downloading the song on iTunes.  Voice Producers, how could you?  You have undermined the basic principle of one person/one vote. I am reminded of the unattractive adage from the corrupt days of the Chicago Daly machine: “Vote Early and Often!!”

This is not who we are.

Even worse, some votes apparently count more than others. If iTunes is deluged with downloads and the song rises to their top ten, then the votes are multiplied by TEN! How fair is that? Now I suppose one could make the argument that an investment in an iTunes download reflects a commitment that should be rewarded. But to me, this option seems more like paying for a vote and then getting a free iTunes download, rather than paying for a download and getting a free vote as a bonus.

I was also dismayed to find that my vote requires internet access. In past seasons, you allowed telephone votes, but no more. Do you realize that you have eliminated whole segments of an under-served population? Making voting difficult for certain members of society has had a troubled history in this country, most recently illustrated by certain states’ onerous requirements for registration. I recognize that you do allow same-day registration on your social media platforms, so I suppose that is a plus, but I am very nervous that my vote will not be kept secret – another violation of basic voting principles. If I had registered through Facebook and then voted for an edgy indie artist from Seattle, would I then be deluged with ads for like-minded singers and Bed and Breakfasts in the Pacific Northwest? I recently made the innocent mistake of looking up something called “The Neptune Society” on the internet, and now my email, Facebook page, and YouTube are festooned with banner ads extolling their business, which turns out to be prepaid cremation.  So without the option of an anonymous telephone call, I hope you can understand my reluctance to vote.

In recent cycles you have introduced the dramatic “instant save” through a Twitter vote. Aside from being a plug for Twitter, and aside from limiting the vote to those with a Twitter account, this option totally disenfranchises the West coast. Since the “instant save” is done on live TV and The Voice is time delayed on the West Coast, voters in the Pacific and Hawaiian time zones can’t vote at all. When they watch the show hours later, they get a red banner saying voting is closed. This reminds me of the electoral college, where votes in the swing states of Ohio and Virginia have a bigger impact on presidential races. In The Voice, the swing states consist of the entire Eastern time zone, including all of the resolutely red Southern states. No wonder the usual winners of The Voice are non-threatening good ole boys or young, perky country singers.

The Voice website does point out that Western voters can participate in the “instant save” by monitoring their Twitter feed and voting for their favorite artist when they see that voting has opened. But this requires the voters to cast their ballots before they have the opportunity to see the performances. I will think of this example of “sight unseen” voting the next time I randomly cast my ballot for a list of judges I have never heard of.

But you know what, dear Voice Producers, perhaps I have been too hard on you. Perhaps there is a redeeming value in your voting methods. We are in the midst of a presidential race and the bloviating Donald Trump, once mildly entertaining, now depresses me. Post-debate, your “instant save” could be repositioned as “instant elimination.”  I would be highly motivated to participate in this process. I would fearlessly sign up for every voting option, create new email addresses and eagerly establish iTunes and Twitter accounts. I would set my alarm and vote as early and as often as possible. With “instant elimination” maybe we could save our country from the embarrassment of Donald Trump.

Respectfully yours,

Liza Blue

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