Gary Susman
September 06, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

Nearly 9 million people may have voted for Kelly Clarkson on Tuesday night, but more than 40 million voted with their remotes to watch at least part of Wednesday’s ”American Idol” finale, according to Nielsen. Some 28 million viewers tuned in for the last half hour, when Kelly’s victory was finally revealed. About half the teenage female viewers in America were watching that climactic half hour, Nielsen reports. Over its two hours, an average of 22.8 million viewers watched the program, making it the most-watched show of the summer and one of the highest-rated non-sports evenings in Fox history.

Over the course of the summer, Verizon Communications reported handling 107 million telephone votes for various ”Idol” contestants, with more than 15 million calls for the final showdown between Kelly and Justin Guarini, with 58 percent of the votes going to Clarkson. That title might have been higher if not for phone scammers who set up a toll-free number similar to that reserved by Fox, but with an 800 prefix instead of an 866. Those who called the faux phone number were directed to redial another unaffiliated number with a 900 prefix that charged $1.99 per call but did not register votes, the Los Angeles Times reports. It’s not clear how many would-be voters were taken in, or how their votes, if dialed correctly, would have affected the outcome.

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