During the primary phase of SE elections the candidate pool is narrowed to 10 nominations based on a free-form up/down voting system much like answers. However the vote math system has some funky stuff that we'd probably be better off without like showing the vote tallies as:

floor ( upvotes - downvotes, 0 ) +/- your vote

Is that wackiness used only for display purposes to keep moral up or is the floor(0) function also used in the math that will determine who gets eliminated? What happens in the event of a tie? How would a more vs. a less controversial candidate with the same score compare? Is +2/-0 or +8/-6 going to be the one to make the cut?

  • 1
    Here's an explanation of how the actual election works, but I'm not sure the same logic applies to primaries.
    – yoozer8
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 12:48
  • 2
    @Jim No, it does not. STV is used in the finals but not the primaries. The STV system is well documented, SE's home grown primary rounds don't seem to be so well covered.
    – Caleb
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 13:12

2 Answers 2


I have no idea where to find the official answer, but based on what happened on ServerFault last year (where I had +22/-12 and the other guy had +27/-17), in the case of a tie in the primary, the person who was nominated first goes on to the final Election.

I don't know if this is still the case, but it was the official answer in early 2012:

In the event of a tie, the tiebreaker goes to the person who nominated themselves first.
— Rebecca Chernoff (source, ServerFault Meta)

  • Strangely the historic election data doesn't seem to show the vote record for any except the candidates that made it to the finals. Was the tie in that case just on the aggregate score or an exact match for the +/- votes?
    – Caleb
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 13:42
  • The other guy who tied with me in that election was @freiheit (maybe he recalls what his score was?), but as you say, it only shows the primary results for the 10 who went on to the final. Given that my score was +22/-11, I'm pretty sure the guy who tied with me didn't get exactly the same +/-. Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 13:50
  • For completeness: according to the comments on that meta.SF question, at some point I had +22/-12 and the other guy had +27/-17, so it looks like it didn't matter what the +- was, just the total. Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 14:01

The primary scores are actually kept. And the lowest score is eliminated.


To prevent pile on downvotes, candidates with a score of 0 or less that have not been upvoted by the current user are shown with a score of 0. If you downvote these candidates, they will show a -1. However, you can always see the real vote total by clicking on the votes (if you have 1000 rep).

Upvoted candidates are always shown with their aggregate score.

  • What I'm really getting at is how is the case of a tie in the aggregate score handled?
    – Caleb
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 13:11
  • Actually, when I downvote I see the real negative score, not -1 (until I reload the page, then it's -1).
    – Ryan Frame
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 13:17
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    @RyanFrame Ya figured that out by experimentation. The whole thing is broken. The floor idea is a bandaid on something I would argue isn't broken.
    – Caleb
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 13:22
  • @Caleb: Yes. I understand not wanting people to see they've been downvoted 500 times, but either go all the way (never let us see it, even by clicking the votes) or don't worry about it at all. The current solution seems halfhearted.
    – Ryan Frame
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 13:28
  • 2
    @RyanFrame See the question I linked to about that. If people are running for public office and can't handle seeing the vote tallies, maybe they shouldn't be nominating. If they are going to be able to see the up/downs anyway, who are we fooling? If downvotes aren't meaningful in the context of primaries, maybe a simple upvote only system would do the job.
    – Caleb
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 13:31
  • On the flip side will people be giving down votes because the person already has them?
    – Joe W
    Commented Jul 23, 2013 at 15:00

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