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I downvoted a question and now really can't say why, so I wanted to remove my downvote. However, I get the message:

You last voted on this question yesterday

Your vote is now locked in unless this question is edited

Why is this? I don't think I voted on it multiple times, and even when I did, I can change my mind, can't I?

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Perhaps stackoverflow does not allow immediate changing of downvotes because if someone intentionally downvotes an answer or comment, it can create a false impression. So just be careful next time. :) –  shasi Feb 26 '11 at 11:36
    
Related (but not identical) to this question –  Tim Post Feb 27 '11 at 10:23
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The marked duplicate is a bug report, not a support request and doesn't even answer the bottom line, why. Voting to reopen. –  3ventic Apr 20 at 21:03
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2 Answers 2

You have a short period of time to change your mind on a vote, five minutes. After that, you can only change your vote if the question or answer has been edited.

This helps to prevent irregularities in voting. If I could go back and take away every up vote I ever made, more than a few people would see a 1k + drop in reputation. If you thought the post was good, or not good for the duration of the grace period, the system assumes you knew what you were doing when voting either way.

The grace period allows for:

  • Accidentally clicking one when you meant the other
  • Realizing that you just misunderstood something that someone was trying to say
  • Seeing a better answer get posted that you think should rise to the top

Again, when you vote, you vote for a post exactly as it is when you voted. If it changes, you are able to change your vote accordingly if you wish.

Edit

This is indeed in order to help curb the tactical down-vote problem.

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Maybe it's worth adding orange warning "Click again to undo in the next five minutes"? –  Shadow Wizard Feb 26 '11 at 14:54
    
@Shadow Wizard - you mean every time you vote, or just for new users? I'm not positive that it doesn't do that the first time someone votes - it's been a couple years :) –  Tim Post Feb 26 '11 at 22:23
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@Tim like the "Please add comment" message when downvoting - for users with rep lower than some threshold.. maybe not 2000 but something like 500 would be reasonable IMO. :-) –  Shadow Wizard Feb 27 '11 at 8:00
    
@Shadpw Wizard somehow I remember there being a notification the first (several) times I voted, but that was two years ago and I'm a little fuzzy that far back :) If there isn't, one would be appropriate, but for the first nn votes (not based on rep) - it would get annoying after more than 3 - 4 displays, don't you think? –  Tim Post Feb 27 '11 at 10:25
    
@Tim good point.. what about showing it as orange message for certain amount of displays then have that message as tooltip? Simply add to the tooltip something that explains you can do it for five minutes only. –  Shadow Wizard Feb 27 '11 at 11:13
    
...you can go back and take away every vote you ever made; it happens on account deletion (or destroying?), although then you need a reputation recalculation to trigger the change. –  badp Feb 27 '11 at 11:39
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I think 5 minutes is waaaay too short. Make it 24 hours at the least. –  jcollum Apr 11 '11 at 22:51
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For example: I downvote & comment. The OP responds in a comnent, refuting my position. I feel chastened, and want to remove my downvote. Now the question & answer have a downvote that they do not deserve. –  James Broadhead Dec 12 '11 at 11:29
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How does this help curb tactical downvoting? (I.e. downvote a competing answer to make your own answer get more votes) For one thing, you can simply remove the vote within the grace period, then put it back. For another, you can just leave the vote: If you're that dishonest, why do you care? For the -1 rep? Hardly. –  TLP Apr 17 '12 at 14:16
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Vote-locking doesn't solve any problem, and causes a lot of other problems. The rule should be repealed and we should be able to change our votes indefinitely. –  endolith May 9 '12 at 20:03
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There was this question on stackoverflow, stackoverflow.com/questions/11510044/… Where I downvoted most of the answers, because I believed that they answered the question wrongly. The op marked one of those answers as right, and thus I was wrong for all the downvotes I cast, and I want to undo them. –  Sam I am Jul 16 '12 at 19:10
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This really makes it hard to correct mistakes. If I discover that the up-voted answer was, if fact, incorrect, I cannot fix my upvote. This is particularly troubling if I make the discovery within an hour. –  Erik Jul 29 '12 at 20:13
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I just got a damn lock-in after three hours! How much is the waiting period anyways? –  sdaau Sep 4 '13 at 15:49
    
@sdaau You have 5 minutes to change your vote. If that 5 minutes has passed, you won't ever be able to revert your vote again unless the post is edited. –  Servy Sep 4 '13 at 16:00
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@thegrinner No, it doesn't. –  Servy Sep 4 '13 at 19:15
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Basically, the site wants you to "know your mind" when you vote, and not change your votes on a whim. There is a 5 minute window for change in case you accidentally clicked the wrong arrow, misread the question etc. I won't go into issues of "tactical downvoting" or otherwise "gaming the system."

One reason for encouraging downvotes is to encourage downvoters to leave comments, or otherwise persuade the OP to improve the post. If the post is changed (and presumably improved), then the site is happy to accommodate changing downvotes.

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