According to the Elections page, this is the election count breakdown:

139,718 voters were eligible, 87,022 visited the site during the election, 33,846 visited the election page, and 6,574 voted

So that means:

  • 4.7% of the eligible SO population voted.
  • 7.6% of the eligible SO population who visited the site during elections voted.
  • 19.4% of the eligible SO population who visited the elections page during elections voted.

(I'm assuming for the last 2 was out of the eligible population)

So I have a few questions:

  • Why are they so low?

  • Does this even count as "low"?

  • Is this a bad thing, should more people vote?

I edited formatting for questions.

  • 4
    Interesting. I'm very surprised about the difference between how many users visited the page, and how many actually voted. (the first numbers, not so much - not everyone has an active interest in the site's governance.)
    – Pekka
    Mar 13, 2013 at 21:48
  • 11
    @pekka I figure lots of people visit the page and realize it's more effort than they want to spend. Mar 13, 2013 at 21:50
  • 7
    Maybe we should give reputation points for voting? ducks and runs away
    – Pekka
    Mar 13, 2013 at 21:51
  • 2
    Well, how do you get more people to vote? You already gave them badges (a bronze and a silver one, mind you!). What more do you want to do? Mar 13, 2013 at 21:52
  • @MadaraUchiha Maybe have more well known? I didn't know I was going to get badges the first election I was in.
    – Belladonna
    Mar 13, 2013 at 21:53
  • 6
    Very interesting. I, for one, was excited to be able to vote and did immediately.
    – Doorknob
    Mar 13, 2013 at 21:54
  • @LittleBigBot: They are found on the badges page, they are just as well known as any other badge. Mar 13, 2013 at 21:55
  • 2
    @LittleBigBot: Explicitly saying that may encourage random voting and crowd (?) voting (not sure about the terminology, basically mean vote for whoever looks popular).
    – nhahtdh
    Mar 13, 2013 at 21:55
  • 1
    Don't get me wrong, I completely agree with you! Not nearly enough people vote. However, what can we do about it? Mar 13, 2013 at 21:55
  • 1
    By the way @AndrewBarber congrats on being elected :D
    – Doorknob
    Mar 13, 2013 at 21:56
  • 1
    @nhahtdh That's a good point. But what incentive could there be that wouldn't have that same problem?
    – Belladonna
    Mar 13, 2013 at 22:00
  • Is your third stat referring to voting in the election itself or does it also include the primary?
    – Troyen
    Mar 13, 2013 at 22:56
  • @Pekka웃 you already get a badge for voting ;-)
    – Jack
    Mar 14, 2013 at 10:27
  • 1
    Related: "Why was this election so (relatively) unpopular?" and "Why was this election (June 2012 for SO) even more unpopular?". As a plus, we had a 48% increase in voters for the final election over last year. Mar 14, 2013 at 16:24
  • 1
    @MichaelMrozek - The answers have changed, though. In the first one, people were complaining about too-long nomination statements, now they're saying the exact opposite. I could see reworking this question into a generic "why is voter turnout so low for moderator elections" and closing those older ones to point to it. Mar 14, 2013 at 17:14

7 Answers 7


I was excited to vote and did so immediately, but I have a guess: they simply don't care. People are here to ask their questions, or on the flipside, collect their rep. They don't care who cleans the toilets (sorry mods).

What can be done to fix this? Well, the question is "Do we want to?" These are probably people who have never even visited meta (that would be a nice stat to look up), and don't care how SO should be improved. Let them ask and answer their questions and leave the voting to the people that do have an interest in improving SO as a whole. That, IMO, will lead to the best outcome in the elections.

We already have badges, and those attract those who would be interested but don't know they can participate (after all, im sure most users have trawled the Badges page at least a few times trying to pick out the easy ones). Anything more would be detrimental, I think.

  • 10
    Meta is not a particularly friendly place to visit, so in that sense I think the community must accept a modicum of responsibility for discouraging users who are not well established. Mar 13, 2013 at 22:14
  • 5
    I strongly suspect this is the answer.
    – Shog9
    Mar 13, 2013 at 22:35
  • @Shog9 As do I, and he answered the two other questions that I asked.
    – Belladonna
    Mar 13, 2013 at 23:59

Personally, I didn't vote for a few reasons:

  • I didn't realize that the voting period was so short after the long primary. (I could have found out, yes, and did once the voting ended, but the short time period was not emphasized.)
  • Being new to the site (as an active user), I had little knowledge with which to distinguish between the candidates.
  • The blurbs distributed by the candidates did not seem to have much in the way of semantic distinction.
  • 7
    I don't usually comment when someone is downvoted, but it's a shame this post was. It's a genuine answer from someone who could have voted, knew it was on but didn't vote. The other answers here (including my own) are assumptions whereas this one is an actual reason (albeit a subjective one).
    – JonW
    Mar 13, 2013 at 22:39
  • 1
    @JonW: But why are you surprised? I wasn't, but I posted anyways knowing this one would be downvoted. Mar 13, 2013 at 22:41
  • 1
    I actually missed the primary because I didn't know the voting period would be so short after the long nomination page, and there's not much for me to do during nominations.
    – Troyen
    Mar 13, 2013 at 22:51
  • 2
    I was also surprised at the short voting period after a fairly long nomination and primary phase. I ignored the election page for a while because I knew I wanted to wait until the field had been narrowed down to 10 candidates, and it surprised me that the actual voting phase started on a Friday afternoon and ended on Tuesday so much that I actually made a MSO post about it
    – Rachel
    Mar 14, 2013 at 14:18

Reasons I didn't vote:

  1. Cursory glance at elections page results in a 'wall of text' feeling
  2. Many candidates just say the same thing
  3. Useless 'write the solution for me' posts on SO bother me, but I feel mods cannot prevent these
  4. I was distracted by the comments
  5. I am not a self-proclaimed SO addict
  6. I suppose I don't care enough to vote.

Improving the interface for the elections page might get me to review more candidates. I think I maybe got through five or so before I just started reading comments. Having a separate page for each candidate might help with this as well.

Implementing some system to limit the appearance of 'give me solution' posts, beyond what exists now, controlled by moderators, might provide an incentive for me to vote.

As for getting more people to vote in general, is that something the community really wants? Would you really want someone like me to vote, without taking the time to really learn about the candidates and find someone who would champion my cause? I could have voted randomly, but didn't. Superficially increasing vote count probably isn't that hard and would require an additional badge or some rep. I'm fairly certain that's not what any of us want.

Regarding my #5 point, it seems many of the mod candidates stated this. As someone who chooses to spend time elsewhere (not be a SO addict) this sort of mentality discourages me from casting a vote for this person. It's difficult to identify with many of the candidates when they mention something like this.


I spent a lot of time, a lot of times, on the voting pages and chat.

I discussed about it in another chat.

But in the end I cast only one vote.

Why ?

Because their presentations were about all the same, very very cautious, just like their declarations in the chat when required to talk on this matter. I had an opinion on only 3 candidates and only because I knew them before, from their interventions in comments, in meta, in answers, or in chat.

So I guess new users, casual users, or users interested in technologies in which no candidate was active, had no way to form an opinion on the candidates.


Why I didn't vote

  • I'm too new here to understand it well (I'm actually in negative numbers on Super User)
  • The candidates (which I saw) put their statements in the same size text, something like a microprocessor data sheet, which required prohibitive amounts of time to read. If any candidate used formatting, I did not get down to that point; as the wall of text became too long, didn't read, and I just closed the screen.
  • I am currently faced with a solarbanite problem at work, which only I can solve. The brass are asking for twice daily updates while I am working 11, 12, and 13 hour days, hoping to keep my job. (This writing is a 15 minute escape to try to maintain my sanity)
  • I would rather have the active knowledgeable participants vote instead of a clueless newbee like me, as I am (really, this is not a copout) scared of endorsing someone whose views and actions are "wrong" (i.e., not like mine)

At this moment, my goal is to get my questions answered. I immediately saw the value of Stack Overflow (and the other stack exchange sites) within one day, and I have made it a personal goal of mine to one day answer more than I ask.

I think it's great that the folks running stack exchange set the voting qualification at 150. The facts are, it was too much thinking for me. As for the second item in my list (i.e., tediously composed introspective text walls) I suggest, next election, that any candidate for office consider these possible options to appeal to more voters (if that's important)


Sub-headings with two or three sentences of details under them help to really clarify, simplify, and communicate far more effectively than large paragraphs of standard text.

Connect with groups

Try to identify at least two, and preferably three or four, clear categories of users. State your points about what your intended actions will do to enhance the place for them.

Connect with the individual

No matter what group may be ascribed to my or your personal participation here, we are individual humans. Make a short section for the individual, and why your proposed actions will benefit Norman Normal.

See how it changes your thinking just by changing the way the words appear in front of the reader ? These are my suggestions for a better next time. Hope this is worth something to someone. Now back to protecting the universe from solarbanite.


I do agree that the number of people who voted is low, but isn'it better that only people really interested vote? If some people went on the page and then see they do not have time to read the candidates presentations and go look at the candidates user page and stuff isn't better that they do not vote randomly?

I do think thats it's better to have low number of good votes from people who took time for it than high number of people that picked and voted randomly.

For sure it would be nice to get more people involved, but countries can sometimes hardly get 50% of votes at their election.


In massive political elections, such as the recent US election turnout was 58.9% which means that roughly 40% of people didn't vote. It couldn't be said that voting was complicated, it can't be said that nobody knew about it, and it can't be said that it was too much effort to find out what the candidates were standing for - all anyone had to do was site on their bum in front of the TV news for 2 minutes at any point within about a 6 month period with a cup of coffee to find out something about all of this.

There are theories about why 100,000,000 who could vote didn't. Apathy, didn't understand the candidates, illness, unable to travel, belief that their vote won't make a difference, don't believe in politics, have better things to do... the list goes on, but if something as huge as a presidential election that impacts everyone in the whole US can't get a huge turnout when so much of the work is already done for the voters (i.e. they're already given lots of information about the candidates without even having to search it out) then it's not surprising that something like a StackOverflow election would get a significantly lower turnout.

For example:

  • Not everyone eligible visits the site regularly enough to know about the election
  • You have to go out of your way to find out and study about the candidates
  • The election process is relatively complex - multiple stages and votes
  • Most people visiting aren't exposed to moderator actions so don't get effected by anything that they do.

Yes, it's a shame that turnout was low, but it always is for all elections across the Stack Exchange sites. It's good that there are elections, it's good that it is democratic, and it's good that eligibility is relatively easy to achieve. Just the fact that elections happen and are democratic is the main thing in my opinion.

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