Yesterday I upvoted a reply. To my utter surprise I found this morning that I missed a key on my phone, and it was actually a downvote. When I tried to change it, the helpful system told me that the vote was too old, and I cannot change it unless the answer was edited.

I understand why locking upvotes is a good thing. But why locking downvotes? Suppose a voter gave a deep thought to the answer and decided it was good after all?

In that particular case I just edited the answer, deleted a spurious punctuation and upvoted it, but this is a too "hackish" solution.

Is there a way to make downvotes unlocking?


2 Answers 2

up vote 13 down vote accepted

To explain, why downvotes will be locked too after some minutes: there can be "tactical downvoting". For example, one could downvote a competing answer, so the own answer gets higher, becoming better visible and perhaps earning an upvote, later removing the downvote to cover one’s track. There could even be a sock puppet, who downvotes a good answer which provokes an upvote of another reader, later the downvote is removed.

Sockpuppet actions and tactical voting can be detected and the effect can be removed, but only if there are traces.

Such kind of gaming might be a nuisance on bigger sites with a lot more users, it's much less probable here. However, our TeX site inherits such security features. So perhaps we suffer a bit because of years of experience on older sites, where they learned that voting needs a bit protection.

A voting system is not perfect, some rules help to keep it reasonable.

Back to a downvote by mistake:

  • If the vote came because of a misunderstanding, so perhaps the vote might be deserved somehow, because of the ambiguity of an answer. Is the answer edited, so improved, reversing the vote is possible.

  • If you voted by accident, just leave a comment telling that. The answerer receives the message and can edit, allowing you to undo the undesired action.

In any case, if helps a lot if the reason for the downvote is briefly explained by a comment. Besides that readers and the answerer can learn from the comment, it supports corrective action, so there's no need for a problem.


If votes were not locked the whole reputation system would suffer a great uncertainty. People could lose a great amount of reputation if someone started retracting all the votes they had ever given to a person. Imagine if someone did something unpopular and therefore a lot of people withdrew their actually legitimate up-votes to his/her posts. A high-rep user could fall quite low this way. This might not happen here, but other SX sites are less polite than us.

Locking only up-votes but not down-votes would not make much sense. You should only down-vote anyway if the post is really bad. Anyway as soon the post is edited you have another chance. The 5min time before the vote is locked should be enough. Your argument of accidentally down-voting doesn't really count. You should see the result in any case and even not, a very infrequent accident should not dictate the rules.

I agree with you, and that is why I think locking upvotes is a good idea. But locking downvotes is a different thing: how can a flamewar start if somebody increases somebody's reputation by recalling a downvote? –  Boris Nov 15 '11 at 15:49
@Boris: See my updated answer now. –  Martin Scharrer Nov 15 '11 at 15:52
What about the case when a voter understood the answer was right after all? –  Boris Nov 15 '11 at 15:56
As I said, down-votes should only be used when the post is really bad and after careful consideration. You are right that looking here isn't that necessary as for up-votes. On the other hand, it doesn't happen that often and one down-vote is not the end of the world. –  Martin Scharrer Nov 15 '11 at 16:41

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