We’ve discovered the source of the voting irregularities we’ve seen in the last few rounds of the Blog Brawl.

In the first round, we found that someone had written a script to automate the voting process. We were able to weed out those votes, and let everyone know about it — and how we felt strongly that it violated the spirit of the blogging contest. (Hence, our little ‘cheater’ videos.)

After that, though, we continued to find irregularities, but nothing as large-scale and obvious as the scripting. We did notice, though, that there were a large number of votes being cast from outside the U.S.

It turned out that there was a completely separate, er, process at work. We were tipped off by a person in Italy (!) that someone was paying people to cast votes for one of our competitors using Amazon’s Mechanical Turk. While this is not cheating — you can’t cheat in a competition that doesn’t really have rules — we (and everyone we’ve talked to about it) think, like the scripting, paying the worldwide public en masse to cast votes violates the spirit of the Brawl.

After speaking with this competitor, we know for a fact that the system was set up by an outside party, not the blogger. Still, this person has agreed to withdraw from the Blog Brawl, and we appreciate the spirit of fair play.

Which leaves us with the question of how to finish the Brawl in a way that balances fairness with expediency (our winners will need to make travel arrangements, after all).

We have decided to re-run the Blog Brawl semi-finals. The contestants are…

Zone 1: Hampton Roads Virginia Real Estate (“Tina in Virginia”) vs. Virginia Real Estate News (Brian Block)

Zone 2: LoCo Musings (Heather Elias) vs. NRV Living (Jeremy Hart) [who would have advanced in the second round if not for the Turk votes]

The voting form will be up later this afternoon, and will end on Wednesday at 11:59 p.m., EST.