0808-0712-3117-5831Let me start by saying I love being an AAR pollster. From a personal standpoint, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know, and become friends with, Lee and Cindy, my wonderful fellow pollsters. From a romance-reading perspective, I get to see the characters and books that AAR’s readers like. After all, I don’t see just the results posted on AAR, I know which books land in 20th, 50th, and 100th place in top ten polls. Sadly, I also know which characters will receive no votes other than my own; ah, there’s my dilemma.

When I first volunteered to be a pollster, I made certain that we would be allowed to vote since the polls were one of my favorite parts of AAR from the beginning. Once assured that I could still vote, I hopped onboard.

As a pollster, I know weeks in advance what our polling schedule looks like. Initially, I would fill out my ballots well before each poll began, and would submit it at AAR as soon as polling opened. Lately, like many AAR readers, I’ve been taking my time preparing my ballot; hence, my dilemma.

For ethical reasons, I will never wait until the closing days of voting to submit my own ballot. By the last days, I have a clear sense as to whether the vote will be a landslide for the characters or books I’m responsible for (we divide up responsibility each poll), or more problematically, whether a single vote by me could push one character or book ahead of another.

But even when I vote early, I often know whether my favorites are going to place – if not win. Worse yet, I know when a character or book I plan to vote for may only receive one vote – mine. This happened with the recently completed Heroes, Heroines, and Couples Mini Poll.

I was responsible for tabulating the heroines, and watched carefully the first week as the votes came in. It quickly became clear that only one of the heroines I intended to vote for – Eve Dallas —  was going to end up in the top ten. I began to debate with myself: should I go with the ballot I intended, or should I vote for potential top ten finalists. And don’t get me wrong, I liked a number of the heroines who finished in the top ten, and even more of the heroines who finished in the top 20.

Ultimately, I decided to stick to my guns and vote for the following heroines, who truly are MY favorites:

Eve Dallas, In Death series, JD Robb – 2nd place

Desdemona Carlisle, As You Desire, Connie Brockway – 31st place

Annabel Granger, Match Me If You Can, SEP – 27th place

Molly, This Heart of Mine, SEP – 37th place

Jane, See Jane Score, Rachel Gibson – 168th place

Lilly, Scoundrel, Elizabeth Elliott – 189th place

Desdemona Wainright, Trust Me, JAK – 213th place

Anna Spinelli, Sea Swept, Nora Roberts – 45th place

Lady Emily, Lady Emily series, Tasha Alexander – 240th place

Abbey Shore, Twist, Cindy Holby – 269th place

At the time I voted, there was still a possibility that one of my selections (Annabel Granger) might end up in the top ten. However, as you can see by the final placement of my other votes, there was never really much hope for any of the others, and I knew it. Looking back, a high place vote for some of my lesser – but still much loved – favorites such as Phoebe Sommerville from Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ It Had To Be You, Min Dobbs from Jennifer Cruise’s Bet Me, or Blair Mallory from Linda Howard’s To Die For, would have pushed them into the top ten. It really was that close.

But, I’m convinced that what I did was right. As a pollster, I have an edge in seeing who the near-finishers are. The average reader doesn’t have that advantage. It has made me wonder how other AAR readers prepare their ballots.

How about you, do you vote for characters or books that you love, even if you think no one else will vote for them, or do you vote for lesser favorites that you think might win?

-LinnieGayl AAR

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