Critics are among the voters least compromised by conflicts of interest, and most likely to vote objectively and fairly for the work they judge to be best. (The others are liable to have greater personal, professional and financial stakes in the outcome.) The excision of this voting block represents a step backward in the seriousness of the awards.
Seriousness is, of course, relative with any awards show. For me, apart from all-out parties like the Obies or the LA Weekly awards, most awards shows hover in a vaguely nauseous zone between trade show and state ceremony, with the attendant mix of glitz, self-importance, and boredom. Then again, we all need our rituals. I'm more behind Adam's closing point, though his last sentence strikes me as a tad hysterical:
It also represents another regrettable step toward the marginalization of critics within the New York theatrical community. It is true that critics do not vote for the Oscar or Emmy Awards; but theater is an inherently more local and personal industry, in which critics have historically played an important role. (Not for nothing are Broadway theaters named after Walter Kerr and Brooks Atkinson.) But critics, and indeed criticism, are inconvenient to the modern theater marketer: Old-fashioned in our insistence on quality, unreliable in our support for expensive projects and less necessary in light of the diffusion of information in the Internet Age. We can expect to see more such gestures of exclusion in the future, each chipping away, as intended, at the status of critics within the theater world.