If I flag something (at least as VLQ, maybe other flags too?) and somebody edits the post, my flag is "resolved" (disputed) and does no further harm. If I vote to close (or reopen) and not enough people agree, those votes evaporate after a few days. (And close votes can be revoked manually if I want.) But delete votes are forever, even if the post is edited and substantially improved, with no way to revoke. Why is that? I'm asking about delete votes on both questions and answers.

(I've seen this question, which seems to be mainly raising a "fairness" issue with reopen vs. delete. I'm more interested in why delete votes, apparently uniquely, are permanent.)

  • Since this question was posted, there have been system changes adjusting some of the underlying assumptions, but not invalidating the inquiry, IMO. The somewhat recent changes: users can retract delete/undelete votes (2021-11-03); regular users get one delete and one undelete vote per post which is not their own (2021-10-26); all of a user's deleted posts are shown on separate pages for answers and questions (previously only 6 months were available for users without the view deleted posts privilege) (2022-01-12); moderators can see a user's delete and undelete votes (2022-08-31).
    – Makyen
    Mar 25, 2023 at 20:16

1 Answer 1


Well, when you delete something you're saying that, "This not only has no [or very little] value, but it is beyond salvation; there is no way this could be edited or improved in any way to result in valuable content worth keeping."

Given that that's the criteria for deletion, it makes sense to me that the vote never goes away. If you think a post isn't salvageable, someone editing it shouldn't invalidate a delete vote.

If people are voting to delete posts and then determining later that they've been salvaged, and this is happening more than very rarely, then it means people are voting to delete when they shouldn't be, not that delete votes aren't properly disappearing.

  • 2
    Well, if someone else decides a post is unsalvageable, and I decide to spend half an hour to rewrite it from scratch to successfully salvage it, the statement "then it means people are voting to delete when they shouldn't be" does rather overshoot its point. Whilst true most of the time, it's the exceptions that count, and then why not have them expire after for a given time. Why does a site full of democracy not take the possibility into account that someone can and will cast a vote that is disproved by someone else? May 22, 2013 at 15:31
  • 5
    Playing devil's advocate for a second... You could make the same argument for closed questions, @Servy. "If people are voting to close posts and then determining later that they've been salvaged, and this is happening more than very rarely, then it means people are voting to close when they shouldn't be, not that close votes aren't properly disappearing."
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    May 22, 2013 at 15:32
  • If it's happening a lot, I agree. As @NielsKeurentjes said, sometimes somebody comes along and invests extraordinary effort for some reason (beats me why, when he could write his own post instead), and in those cases it would be nice to be able to revoke the delete vote. May 22, 2013 at 15:33
  • 3
    @NielsKeurentjes If I'm voting to delete a post then, unless I've made a mistake, you shouldn't be able to salvage it even by spending half an hour rewriting it. It should be an entirely different question by that point, and should just be posted as a new question, because it will have virtually nothing left of the original and would be too radical of a change for an appropriate edit.
    – Servy
    May 22, 2013 at 15:34
  • 1
    We could probably do with some aging on the delete votes... though I'm not sure this really is a practical problem right now. It would also be harder to get right since the number of people who can vote to delete is smaller than people who can vote to close, so we don't want to accidentally prevent questions that do need to be removed from getting deleted because they fail to amass the 3 votes in a given time period. Closing is also a prerequisite for deletion by community, so there's usually ample opportunity to revise or salvage a question before we get to that point.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    May 22, 2013 at 15:35
  • 2
    @AnnaLear When voting to close you aren't saying a question is unsalvagable. In fact, you're specifically closing the question to give it time to be edited/improved/salvaged. When I close a question (unless I'm planning to vote to delete as soon as it's closed) I'm hoping that it will be improved such that it can be reopened.
    – Servy
    May 22, 2013 at 15:36
  • @Servy I know what you're saying is theoretically true, I'm just saying we're on a site that gets tons of user-generated input each day, that's all judged differently by tons of people with privileges to do so. You might decide a post is 1% beyond the unsalvageable theshold, and I might decide it's 1% below and fix it. It's not the clear-cut cases that this is about, those will get their 3 delete votes right away anyway. May 22, 2013 at 15:37
  • 4
    Or seen the other way around - if there's no way the vote can expire or be reversed, why bother waiting for 3 votes to be cast before deletion, in the end big numbers will say 2 other people see it who agree - it might just take years. May 22, 2013 at 15:40
  • 3
    @AnnaLear I don't think aging out would be good for the reasons you state. Some way to revoke might be better. Also, I was asking about questions and answers (sorry if that wasn't clear), and answers can't be closed first. May 22, 2013 at 15:52
  • Regarding your "extraordinary effort" comment, @MonicaCellio, that sounds like an exceptional situation, where it would be completely appropriate for a moderator to be called in to clear the votes.
    – jscs
    May 22, 2013 at 18:09
  • @JoshCaswell, noderators can clear delete votes? (Do you mean by deleting and immediately undeleting, or is there a direct interface? Time to go digging in the mod tools!) May 22, 2013 at 18:10
  • I was certainly under the impression, @MonicaCellio, that I'd heard one of the SO mods say that they had done so. Perhaps I'm confusing that with close votes, or with a dev-only function.
    – jscs
    May 22, 2013 at 18:13

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