I have experienced this on a couple of sites (and I'm not the only one) :
You look through the question list. You see a pretty bad (or at least not-so-good) question heavily upvoted.
Or even worse, a very poor answer to a good question - upvoted to stratosphere.
Or even worse, a very poor/incorrect answer upvoted high up - and a later, correct answer, languishing with a couple of upvotes (since the flood of views is no longer there).
Upon checking, you see tons of views, which came from SE Hot List inclusion.
So, people see an "interesting" "fun" question, head on over in mass numbers (especially if the destination is a smaller site), and due to association bonus, can - and do - upvote any random "fun" crap that's "hot" yet to an expert on the topic is at best not worth being upvoted (and at worst should be downvoted).
As per @Thursday's comment, this is made even worse because of the asymmetry of hot list effect: those coming from Hot Questions may recognize the question is crap, and perhaps 50% of them would downvote it under normal circumstances. But having only 101 rep, they can't. The 5% who want to upvote (for reasons that are difficult to fathom) can and do. Result: vote count that does not represent the opinion of either the particular community, nor the network at large.
- UPDATE: The above effect just got a spectacular real world confirmation. As of this moment, the bad answer has only 7 downvotes (and 20+ upvotes), despite the fact that my comment which indicates it's a bad answer in need of downvotes has 23 upvotes - 3x number of people agreed that the answer is bad, than actually downvoted
One solution presented to this dilemma - which seems a bit too heavy-handed - is to prevent association bonus rep from counting towards vote-up privilege.
My suggestion is a much more surgical and localized:
Do not allow voting in the following case:
- The question is currently in SE hot list
- The user's reputation on the site NOT counting association bonus is not enough to upvote.
Note that an association-only users can still upvote any other content on the site - or even questions that used to be on hot list but aren't anymore.
As an example, an answer posted by myself recently was upvoted to 100+. It wasn't a bad answer, but if I'm being honest with myself, it clearly wasn't great enough to deserve 100+ upvotes that it got thanks to hotlist