'American Idol' limits voting for the first time

"American Idol" has always prided itself on enthusiastic fans and have encouraged them to vote as many times as they can. This enabled Ryan Seacrest during the salad days to tout the ridiculously high voting counts: 50 million! 60 million!

Back in the early days, this meant dialing as much as you could, which created controversy in the first few seasons when people were beset by busy signals. (Yes! Busy signals! Your 10 year old wouldn't even know what that is!). Texting in recent seasons alleviated that problem but may have inflated the vote counts for the guys on a presumption (unproven but presumed) that teen girls went gaga over them.

Now there are online options to vote. But this season, "Idol" for the first time is limiting voting to 50 votes per contestant per each method. Most other shows, such as "Dancing with the Stars" and "The Voice" already limit voting.

This is potentially a good thing in terms of helping contestants that don't generate much enthusiasm from younger viewers more apt to vote by text. Last year "Idol" enabled people to vote "en masse" up to 50 votes online easily, which probably negated the big texting contingent. Of course, last year, the male crew was so weak, it didn't matter.

AT&T is no longer a sponsor so anyone can text in their votes on any carrier.

People this year will be able to vote by phone and text as well as three online choices: www.americanidol.com, the Idol app and Facebook.  Again, they appear to be limited to putting in 50 votes per contestants per option. Ultimately, that is still plenty of votes.

The show will pare down the 77 contestants tonight to probably around 45. From there, they will cut it down to 31, with two guys (spoilers already ID who they are) competing for public vote for one of the 15 male slots. The voting will happen on Thursday.

Another twist this year: not everyone will perform next week and there will be only one set of live semifinal shows next week before the final 13 are named on Feb. 20. (Most past seasons involved two or three weeks of semifinal rounds.)The fact not everyone will perform will certainly court controversy and buzz, something the show desperately needs.

Randy Jackson will appear for the first time next week to mentor, along with Chris Daughtry and Adam Lambert.

The 13 finalists will include 10 picked by the public (top 5 guys, top 5 girls) and three more wild-card picks by each of the judges.

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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.