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In the recent SO moderator election, OpaVote says that there were 28331 ballots. Downloading the .blt file from OpaVote and summing the vote weight also results in a total vote weight of 28331 as expected. But downloading the .blt file from the election page on SO tells a different story: that .blt has 28328 votes in it: it seems 3 votes are missing. The file has 28338 lines, with 1 ballot per line, but 10 of those lines are metadata and not votes, leaving a mere 28328 votes in it. Here are the scripts I used to get those numbers.

Specifically, here are the votes in the OpaVote file missing from the SO file (this is a bit complicated to get since the SO file has 1 vote per line but the OpaVote one lumps identical votes together):

1 1 0          # Zoe
1 6 2 4 5 1 0  # Dharman, Ryan M, Daniel Widdis, Stephen Rauch, Zoe
1 1 2 6 4 5 0  # Zoe, Ryan M, Dharman, Daniel Widdis, Stephen Rauch

What happened to these three votes in the SO file? Perhaps they deleted their account and that deleted their vote too? Perhaps there was a race condition where 3 people voted in between the generation of the two files? Regardless, the ballot file from OpaVote and the election page should always be semantically equivalent. This might be a regression of a similar fixed bug from 2012.

Note that the election page itself says "28,754 voted", which is more than any of the above numbers. This is not a bug, since that bigger number also seems to include people who voted for nobody, and those people don't get included in the BLT files (except they actually do if they exclusively voted for candidates that were removed mid-election).

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    I think your title isn't quite inflammatory enough yet. Perhaps try: "The new mods deleted the accounts of 3 users who didn't vote for them!" :-)
    – Cody Gray
    Nov 1, 2021 at 23:27

1 Answer 1

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The voting history file is not created and locked at the time the election ends - every time someone requests it, it is recreated. Because of this, you will likely find even more significant differences the farther back in election history you go.

The reason is simple. Profile deletion and merging. As time passes, the people who voted in an election may delete their profile on a site, meaning that the record of their vote is removed and can not be provided when someone requests the file.

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    It seems like it should be locked to what it was at the end though? The election outcome doesn't change when accounts are deleted/merged, so the ballot file shouldn't either. It seems you could also take advantage of this to deanonymize voters who deleted/merged their accounts.
    – Smitop
    Oct 31, 2021 at 21:37
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    We could. But that would require creating and storing a file - which... I don't even know how we'd do that. We're aware of this but it's not something that we've felt was urgent enough to solve.
    – Catija StaffMod
    Oct 31, 2021 at 21:44
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    It's also not an issue for later elections run after SE began publishing the results online on OpaVote. Oct 31, 2021 at 22:00

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