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April 05, 2016

'Unusual voting activity' suspends best beach contest

California town draws heavy vote from overseas in Coastal Living contest

Something seems amiss in Coastal Living magazine’s best beach poll.

Modeled after March Madness, the championship matchup features Ocean City, New Jersey in a head-to-head contest against Huntington Beach, California.

The voting ended at midnight Sunday, but the magazine then posted the following statement:

“We have detected some unusual voting activity and therefore will not name the winner until we have consulted with our polling provider.”

A call and email to an editor at the magazine were not immediately returned Tuesday.

Though no longer listed on the website, the vote tally had Ocean City at around 100,000 votes, with Huntington ahead by more than 20,000 votes.

The issue seems to be where the Huntington votes are coming from: France, Germany and Ukraine.

On the other hand, Ocean City’s votes are largely from America. reports the possibility that automated “bots” may be responsible for the vote volume for Huntington Beach, which got to the championship round by beating Indiana Dunes with a high number of votes from outside the United States.

The assistant city manager of Huntington Beach, Ken Domer, scoffed at the bots notion.

"I can assure you that Huntington Beach, with its over ten miles of beautiful sandy beaches, awesome sunsets, year round recreational opportunities due to our warm weather, and surfing that has earned us the nickname, “Surf City USA,” does not need bots to win a best beach competition" said Domer. 

He also said Huntington pulls visitors from around the world before taking a shot at Ocean City's 40 degree temperature on Tuesday, versus the mid-70s mark his town recorded on the same day.

Doug Bergen, a spokesman for Ocean City, said the Jersey town “feels blessed” to be in the running “win or lose.”

He cited the “passion” of the city’s supporters for their success in the contest.