Jones' fans are hopefully devoted to vote

May 01, 2007|By Mary Carole McCauley | Mary Carole McCauley,Sun reporter

Debbie Davidson of Glen Burnie voted so many times for American Idol contestant Lakisha Jones last week that she jokes that she's in danger of getting carpal tunnel syndrome.

Halfway across the country, in Flint, Mich., where Jones grew up, Dollie Twigg voted nonstop for four straight hours - on two phone lines. Twigg's land-line phone was in her right hand, her cell in her left.

"Normally, I don't act like a teenybopper," says Twigg, 48, who admits that she stayed awake until 4 a.m. Wednesday, sending e-mail messages lobbying fans of the show on the West Coast, where the polls, um, voting lines, stay open late.

Though Twigg and Davidson have never met, they are comrades in a joint crusade. Not only does Davidson herself "power vote," the five members of her family who have cell phones are under strict orders to power vote for Jones as well.

A longtime customer of Provident Bank in Millersville, Davidson met Jones when she worked there last year as a teller. Davidson was captivated by Jones' warm personality even before she was knocked out by her powerhouse of a voice.

"She is a very happy, bubbly person, really nice," says Davidson, a 42-year-old mother of seven.

"I just vote continuously because I want Lakisha to win. I make sure that my cell phone is fully charged on Tuesday night, and I keep switching hands. But by the time I finally stopped voting last week at about 12:30 a.m., both my arms were killing me."

The efforts of Davidson, Twigg and others like them go beyond valiant. In fact, the word "fanatic" - which, after all, is the long form of "fan" - comes to mind.

But, sadly, it all might be for naught, aching wrists and sleep-deprived mornings notwithstanding.

American Idol doesn't discourage the practice, saying there is no official limit on the number of votes that any one person is allowed to cast. The reality show only prohibits technically enhanced voting, such as the kind promoted on the Web site dial idol.com. The producers say they can detect votes cast by a computer modem and remove them.

"To date, that has not been necessary," Idol officials said in a statement, "as their votes have had no impact on the outcome of the competition."

Ah, there's the rub. If a super-speedy computer can't swing the results, how can 10 stubby fingers?

Let's do the math: Last week, 70 million votes were cast for the six contestants. That comes out, very roughly, to 12 million votes for each singer.

Pretend that a dedicated, power-voter such as Davidson or Twigg managed to successfully cast, oh, 600 votes during the four hours that the lines were open last week - an amount higher than either woman estimates.

So 198 other people also would have had to jam through 600 successful votes on the same night for her as well, to boost Jones' standing by even 1 percentage point.

Remember that a huge number of potential votes are blocked by swamped phone lines, resulting in callers hearing a busy signal.

And remember, as well, that the remaining five candidates have their own supporters who may well be power voting for them.

Still, such voters as Davidson and Twigg aren't deterred, perhaps because the feeling that anointing the new American Idol is more a matter of faith than of science.

"I've always thought it's pretty stupid that people can vote as many times as they want," Twigg says. "But as long as that's the system they use, and as long as the supporters of other candidates are power voting, I can't stop.

"Regardless of whether my votes affect the outcome or whether they don't, I'm going to continue to do my thing. That's the only way I know how to help Lakisha: to go home and vote for her."

mary.mccauley@baltsun.com

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