Dumb non-scandal gets dumber: Are tea partiers cheating to help Bristol Palin on “Dancing With the Stars”?

I’m starting to think that this story, and not the reaction to anything that Palin herself has said or done, is the true proof of just how far her brand has penetrated the culture’s consciousness. Until now, the whining has been confined to claiming that conservatives are phoning in to boost Bristol irrespective of her merit on the dance floor. But that accusation doesn’t have much bite, because after all there’s nothing improper about it.

On to phase two, then: Not only are conservatives boosting Bristol, they’re actually cheating by voting multiple times in order to make it happen. Those wingnut bastards.

But what isn’t widely known is the evidence—via message board comments on some conservative sites—that this mobilization involves fixing this (albeit meaningless) election through a technical snafu on ABC’s website, which allows Palin’s supporters to cast an infinite number of email votes:

“Here’s a hint: They don’t have to be VALID email addresses to register them with ABC.com, there is apparently no validation process. The just have to be formatted like a valid email address, and you must use a valid zip code and a birthdate that makes you old enough to vote. I’m voting like a democrat, all night long…”

“No, it doesn’t have to be a valid email address – I had one of my anonymous ones [email protected] that I used, and then just did the sign-up process all over again with [email protected] and it worked.”

“Got my 80 votes in online…took 2 hours. I am beat”

“I only got 42 in, I have some catching up to do!”

“Lord have mercy, I voted for 3 hours online! I got 300 in.”

The fact that anyone would be willing to devote three hours to rigging a vote on “Dancing With the Stars” is, admittedly, fantastically depressing. Also depressing: The fact that ABC apparently anticipated attempts to cheat and took security precautions to prevent it. From the LA Times:

For their part, “Dancing with the Stars” executives dismissed the criticism of the show’s voting system. The hit dancing series relies not only on judges’ scores, but also public votes, which are averaged together to determine winners. This week’s results drew the largest number of votes ever in a semi-final for the show, now in its 11th season…

ABC officials stood by its results Wednesday. Though the network doesn’t require users to authenticate e-mail addresses, there are safeguards in place to prevent such fraud. (The Times agreed not to divulge the nature of that system for security reasons.)

What they’re probably doing is recording the votes by IP, not by e-mail address, so that if you vote 8,000 times from home, all but the first five sent from your modem would be disregarded. Either that or ABC’s simply lying about its security to protect the “integrity” of the show. In any case, how many Palin fans could possibly be so devoted to her that they’d be willing to sit there for hours on end clicking the “vote” button for Bristol? I’m thinking it can’t be more than, say … four or five million. Six million tops.