Today I accidentally voted down a question that I was reading. When I noticed and went to change my vote I got an error message blocking my vote reversal unless the question is edited. This was particularly consternating since I actually really like the question and feel that the author deserves credit.

So my question - why block vote reversals? Is it trying to avoid people reversing their votes due to peer pressure? At bare minimum it seems like users with, say, 100+ reputation should have this ability.

  • $\begingroup$ I'm not going to try, but since I have sufficient reputation to edit the question I wonder if I could "cheat" by making a null edit myself and then flipping the vote. $\endgroup$ Feb 2, 2011 at 20:34
  • $\begingroup$ I heard that that “cheating” is possible, but you need 2,000 rep points to edit other user’s post unless the post is declared to be community-wiki, in which case you only need 100. $\endgroup$ Feb 2, 2011 at 21:14
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know what the reason is. this is one of those mysterious Stack Exchange things. $\endgroup$ Feb 2, 2011 at 21:20
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    $\begingroup$ Rumors say that undoing a vote is disallowed (with some exceptions) to prevent users from “gaming the system.” That said, there are many discussions on Meta Stack Overflow against the current restriction on undoing votes. One of them is “Allowing users to undo their votes.” $\endgroup$ Feb 2, 2011 at 21:22
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    $\begingroup$ Just explain your mistake in a comment. Then OP can make a null edit and you can change your vote. And at least OP will understand why you downvoted. $\endgroup$ Feb 2, 2011 at 22:16
  • $\begingroup$ @Jukka - I thought about doing that, but it seemed like more of a meta issue. I didn't want to disrupt the good technical discussion in the comments with something mundane. It was on this question: cstheory.stackexchange.com/questions/4703/… $\endgroup$ Feb 2, 2011 at 22:22
  • $\begingroup$ Well, I tweaked the question a bit; I hope nobody minds. You can now fix your vote. $\endgroup$ Feb 2, 2011 at 22:29
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Jukka. Done. $\endgroup$ Feb 2, 2011 at 22:32
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    $\begingroup$ I have had the same problem with an answer. I actually voted in best belief. I think it is the most normal thing in the world that you would change your mind after a discussion or prefer a newer answer. $\endgroup$
    – Raphael
    Feb 2, 2011 at 22:57
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    $\begingroup$ I think the whole SE software model is designed assuming that some SO user is going to hack it to shreds :). $\endgroup$ Feb 2, 2011 at 23:24

1 Answer 1


I completely agree that there are legitimate reasons to want to undo votes on posts, such as clicking by mistake or changing your mind after some time.

As I wrote in a comment, a vote on a post cannot be canceled except for certain circumstances. The official explanation for this restriction, which I cannot find where I saw for now, is “Allowing unlimited undoing would open up the possibility of gaming the system.” Namely, if you want your answer to be voted up, you could vote down the other answers so that your answer will be shown on the top of the page (because the other answers have now negative score) and lazy users will read only your answer and upvote it. The downside of this strategy is that you lose 1 rep point every time you cast a downvote, but if you can undo the votes, you can cancel your downvotes after a week or so when no one cares what happens in a question which does not appear on the top page. Moreover, canceling the downvotes hides the evidence that you have cast many downvotes (the number of upvotes and downvotes you have cast is available on your profile page).

Many (seemingly silly) restrictions on Stack Exchange websites like this originate from the same logic of preventing gaming the system. I guess that these restrictions came from the real experience by the admins at Stack Overflow Internet Services, Inc., on Stack Overflow and other sites which have longer history than ours. I appreciate the fact that the admins put their experiences to form the whole Stack Exchange network. However, I am worried by their general tendency of overreacting to the fear that someone may game the system. I believe that different communities have different priorities and that earning the rep points is not considered to be as important in cstheory.stackexchange.com as in more popular sites such as Stack Overflow. I understand that it is sometimes difficult to prevent abusing without ruining the usability for legitimate users, but I hope that they will take the difference like this into account to design the system.

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks Tsuyoshi. I had to be very careful to click the check mark instead of the down arrow :-). $\endgroup$ Feb 3, 2011 at 0:20
  • $\begingroup$ Not refunding reputation spent on a downvote when you reverse it would solve the problem without that silly restriction. $\endgroup$
    – Raphael
    Feb 12, 2011 at 16:17

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