During Wednesday night's ''American Idol'' finale, when host Ryan Seacrest started to give a state-by-state count of who was winning -- Clay Aiken or Ruben Studdard -- the evening began to look like the 2000 presidential election. In fact, it may have ended with a similar controversy over the margin of victory. The number of votes by which Ruben beat Clay, as announced by Seacrest, may have been off by a factor of 10 or even 100.
Early in the show, Seacrest said the margin was 13,000. Later, he amended it to 1,335, saying the misstatement occurred because ''our accountant was drunk.'' But the final percentages he announced, saying that 50.28 percent of the 24 million voters had picked the winner versus 49.72 percent for the runner-up, actually result in a difference of about 134,000 votes.
Will Clay voters cite the discrepancy to call for a recount? Will the Supreme Court have to get involved? And whom would Justice Antonin Scalia favor, Ruben or Clay? In any case, the real voting may be done by record buyers, since both Ruben and Clay are releasing singles the week of June 3. As of late Wednesday, Clay was already winning in pre-orders at Amazon.com.