Stuffing the Ballot Box

Feb. 16, 2021

When contest results come out funny.

Baseball fans of a certain age will remember the late Bowie Kuhn, who served as commissioner of Major League Baseball during the 1970s. You can debate how well he did his job (and whether he deserved his current niche in the Hall of Fame), but no one can deny that he was one of the most unflappable personalities around.

I remember his appearance on a talk show, Dick Cavett if I’m not mistaken, when he discussed problems associated with fans voting for All-Star rosters. He mentioned the 1957 fiasco, when Reds fans made an organized effort that resulted in the National League All Stars being, with one exception, all Reds.

“There were some good players on that team,” Kuhn mused, giving a couple of names. Then he added with typical blandness: “They didn’t let fans vote after that.” (Fans didn’t start electing All-Stars again until 1970.)

That came to mind today, when I got an email touting the winners of something that claims to be “the world’s largest consumer-voted award for product innovation.” It uses a national online poll to find the best consumer products in 41 categories.

I was surprised that only 12 of them were for foods and beverages. I was very surprised that of those 12, seven were private label products for a certain discount grocery chain.

I won’t name the contest or the chain, or give any further details, because 1) the results are “under embargo” until Feb. 18 and 2) I don’t care and I don’t think you do either. But I find it interesting that this one discount chain managed to pull down more than half the available awards.

Those Cincinnati fans who stuffed the All-Star ballot box in 1957 didn’t have the internet to help them organize. I have to wonder if, in the digital age, the numerous employees of this large, spread-out grocery chain would have had an easier time of it.