Bristol Palin, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr might share something in common after this season’s “Dancing with the Stars.”
While her dancing skills have improved during the course of the show, Palin has never been considered a top celebrity dancer at any point during this DWTS season. But the show’s online voting system has helped Palin land in the final round despite consistently poor scores from the judges.
According to Sun-Times columnist Bill Zwecker, Dancing with the Stars sources have been stunned by the degree of public support for Palin. Some online speculators even indicate that this season’s results have made ABC consider significant changes to its DWTS voting system.
The fate of DWTS contestants is based on a merger of scores from the judges plus votes from the public. If ABC overhauls this selection method, it could be the biggest electoral system overhaul since the 12th amendment in 1804.
The Constitution was written in 1787, well before the invention of reality TV. But when determining how the President of our new republic would be selected, the Framers preferred the Survivor method over the American Idol method.
Many of the Framers did not trust the masses and feared that the direct popular vote would lead to uneducated choices by uneducated citizens. American Idol has employed this direct voting method from the beginning, but its system of winnowing down candidates each week guarantees the winner can secure a majority of support when it comes down to the final two contestants.
Originally, our Electoral College was supposed to resemble Survivor’s tribal council. In Survivor, the final 10 contestants get to determine the winner of the $1 million prize. This tribal council constitutes a panel of experts who have spent the most time with the final two contestants and can theoretically make the most educated vote for the most deserving candidate.
This is how the Electoral College worked the first two times it selected George Washington unanimously. But in our third and fourth presidential elections, Electors started voting based on partisan backing rather than selecting the most qualified candidate. In 1796, this system created chaos with the election of President John Adams with his archrival, Thomas Jefferson, as vice president. Then in 1800, Aaron Burr nearly stole the presidential election when the House of Representatives had to select the winner between him and Thomas Jefferson.
By 1804, the Constitution was changed to address this partisan nature of Electoral voting. The 12th Amendment created the Electoral College system that we use today allowing for electoral votes to be cast for a slate of Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates. The 12th Amendment still stands as the only change that has had to be made to the Constitution due to the development of political parties.
If Bristol Palin’s success brings changes to Dancing with the Stars, we can place her name along with Jefferson and Burr as Americans who caused some of this country’s most significant changes to its electoral systems.