Why Does ‘Dancing With the Stars’ Voting Exclude America’s Biggest State?

If you’re starting to think Dancing With the Stars lost its way, you’re not alone. ABC’s celebrity dance contest has lost even more viewers in Season 28 (Fall 2019). This latest decline followed a 24% crash in the ratings for Season 27. But maybe it’s best to put it in real numbers.

In Season 25 (Fall 2017), DWTS averaged 9.33 million viewers. This season, the Sean Spicer cast has averaged 6.69 million viewers through eight weeks. That represents close to a 30% drop in only two years.

In short, the fall has been so steep it made us wonder about the DWTS mission. If you look at the ABC website, it sounds simple. “Each week celebrities … master new dance styles and technical choreography to perform a dance, which will be judged by a panel of renowned ballroom experts as well as voted upon by viewers.

But longtime DWTS viewers know that isn’t the case. Not only have judge’s votes not mattered this season; ABC has also blocked audience voting in America’s biggest state. And it’s probably why so many DWTS fans consider this edition a flop.

ABC eliminated late-night voting, excluding California’s 40m residents

DANCING WITH THE STARS – After beating Sean Spicer in both individual and head-to-head dances, Kate Flannery was eliminated November 4. | Kelsey McNeal/ABC via Getty Images

The reason we say ABC has gone back on its own stated mission is simple: Neither judges nor audience votes actually play a big factor in the contestants’ final scores. We’ll start with the judges.

In each of the past four weeks, Sean Spicer posted the lowest scores of any contestant. Yet he’s continued ahead every time. That means audience votes have kept him alive. (The, uh, president of the United States and other conservative figures have led voting rallies for Spicer.)

But the new DWTS voting system means there is no real audience vote, either. All voting for Season 28 is live, which excludes both Mountain and Pacific time zones. That means California — America’s most populous state with nearly 40 million residents — has no say.

Neither do Washington state (pop. 7.5 million), Arizona (7.17 million), and Colorado (pop. 5.7 million). This setup has made it simple for the show’s worst dancer to continue dancing long past his time.

‘DWTS’ seems headed for a true participation-trophy finale

DANCING WITH THE STARS – Sean Spicer, seen here flat-footed during a November 4 dance, advanced with the lowest Week 8 score. | ABC/Kelsey McNeal

What if you were the worst athlete who won the MVP award because your parents donated the most to your school’s athletic program? Or what if you got a starting position on the basketball team because your mom pressured the coach so much?

That’s basically been the story of this year’s Dancing With the Stars. Week after week, the worst dancer (Spicer) has stayed on the show because a partisan voting bloc has deemed it their most important mission (i.e., to let other DWTS fans know that bad dancing shall be rewarded).

The sad thing for ABC is this voting bloc hasn’t been able to lift the show’s ratings to anywhere near where it’s been in recent years. But that’s to be expected with Season 28 headed for what looks to be a participation-trophy finale.

Maybe people just don’t like seeing bad dancing on a dancing show. Who would have guessed?

Also see: Sean Spicer Came Really Close to the Worst Week 7 Score in ‘DWTS’ History