Dancing With the Stars

How 'Dancing' determines the winner

Nov. 23, 2010 at 6:43 PM ET

Confused about how the "Dancing" finale works when it comes to determining the winner? So are a lot of people!

For the most part, it's a lot like how it works during the season: The judges score the dancers, then that total is combined with the viewers' votes. Here's how the ABC website explains it:

"If couple A, B and C receive 38, 26 and 14 points from the judges, we calculate what share these points represent of the total awarded by the judges on the night. In this case the judges gave 78 points in total, and each couples' share of 78 points breaks down as follows: 38= 48.72 percent of 78, 26= 33.33 percent of 78, 14= 17.95 percent of 78. Let’s suppose that when the public votes are tallied, each couple has the following shares: A= 20 percent, B=40 percent, C=40 percent. To determine who’s eliminated we combine these two shares for the total:

"Couple A: 20+48.72 percent = 68.72 percent

"Couple B: 40+33.33 percent = 73.33 percent

"Couple C: 40+17.95 percent = 57.95 percent

"In this case, the bottom two couples would be A and C, and C would be eliminated."

There are a few differences for finale night, though. Usually, the show eliminates the third-place finisher at the top of the program. Then the two finalists perform one more dance for the judges. The panel scores these dances, but viewers will not get to vote. These final scores are then added to the combined total of scores and votes from Monday night (part 1 of the finale) to determine who wins the coveted mirror ball trophy. So in essence, the judges do get a little bit more say than viewers when it comes to who wins.

But things are already a bit messy this season, what with the accusations of ballot-box stuffing for finalist Bristol Palin, and ABC's admission today that there were voting issues last night. (The network says so many people tried to cast their votes that the system was overwhelmed, but that the issue "affected each finalist equally.")

Regardless of who wins tonight, it'll likely raise cries of a tainted victory.

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