Why Dancing With The Star’s New Voting System Still Isn’t Fair To The Dancers

dancing with the stars james van der beek abc
(Image credit: ABC)

Spoilers ahead for the September 23 episode of Dancing with the Stars Season 28.

Dancing with the Stars is only two weeks into its 28th season on ABC, and the lineup features the regular mix of super talented celebrity dancers, middling celebrity dancers, and at least one celebrity dancer whose inclusion is hard to comprehend. Surprisingly (to me, at least), Sean Spicer was not the first celeb to get the axe. Rather, Mary Wilson was voted out, with partner Brandon Armstrong. Maybe Spicer blinded viewers with his fluorescence in the premiere!

At this point, though, I'm struggling to be very invested in the results of the votes that lead to elimination, and I wish that wasn't the case. Despite a few tweaks to the rules about elimination for Season 28, the voting process still isn't fair to dancers or fans. Here's why.

Let's start with what didn't change for Season 28 that probably should have, in my book.

Dancing with the Stars did not change the questionable voting system that requires viewers to chime in with their votes during the initial broadcast, which only airs live in the Eastern and Central time zones, meaning that fans watching from the Mountain and Pacific time zones don't get to weigh in unless they want to vote for favorites without watching the latest performances or if they find non-traditional ways of watching episodes.

I already had my issues with that, even beyond the time zone injustice. When the voting happens throughout an episode, the timing means that fans have more time to chime in and vote for the earlier dancers than the last. Former Bachelorette Hannah Brown, who went last week and may have an unfair advantage of her own, danced with only about 15 minutes left before the episode came to an end and well after James Van Der Beek kicked off the night with Emma Slater.

Of course, Hannah didn't get the axe, so going last didn't condemn her to leaving. Still, it's not quite fair to me, and I was hoping against hope voting would change so that elimination wouldn't happen in the same two hours as the performances. This is nothing new, however.

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What is new is that viewers now have the option of voting via text as well as ABC.com and the ABC app. Just as with voting via the other methods, fans can vote up to ten times via text. Also new is that the judges have the choice to save one of the bottom two couples. In the September 23 episode, the bottom two duos came down to Mary Wilson/Brandon Armstrong and Ray Lewis/Cheryl Burke, with Lewis and Burke coming out on top with two of the three judges.

So, while Dancing with the Stars technically is largely guided by the votes of viewers, there are a lot of catches that means the dancers don't all get advanced or eliminated based on what all fans want. The time zones mean that viewers further west than the Central time zone can't watch live, and can only follow along online or find alternate methods of viewing the Eastern/Central broadcast. Now, the judges' ability to save one of the bottom two means that the celeb with the least votes doesn't get eliminated.

Does this mean Dancing with the Stars is no fun to watch? Definitely not. We still get to see celebrities strutting their stuff with professional dancers, with varying degrees of success. There's glitz and glamor and outlandish costumes. There are entertaining gimmicks and theme weeks. It's an enjoyable show. For me, though, it's just not quite fair.

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To catch new episodes of Dancing with the Stars, tune in to ABC on Mondays at 8 p.m. ET. Dancing with the Stars is only one of many TV options hitting the airwaves this fall, so be sure to swing by our fall TV premiere schedule.

Laura Hurley
Senior Content Producer

Laura turned a lifelong love of television into a valid reason to write and think about TV on a daily basis. She's not a doctor, lawyer, or detective, but watches a lot of them in primetime. CinemaBlend's resident expert and interviewer for One Chicago, the galaxy far, far away, and a variety of other primetime television. Will not time travel and can cite multiple TV shows to explain why. She does, however, want to believe that she can sneak references to The X-Files into daily conversation (and author bios).