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There is an oddity we encountered during development of the ElectionBot that might or might not be by-design. Normally, elections are numbered sequentially, and thus we assumed this is a reliable method of enumerating past elections. However, in the instance of elections on English Language & Usage it unexpectedly turned out that the 5th election is missing (whereas the most recent election is #6, and the previous one is #4).

See it for yourself, try accessing the 5th election URL, or take a look below if you are reading this during an active election there (as the /election endpoint redirects to the election page during active elections):

Screenshot of the English Language & Usage /election page with 5th election missing

I've tried to get clarifications from ELU users, moderators, and even a CM, but nobody seems to know what this is about. The biggest point of concern here is whether the sequential nature of election ids can be relied upon, and this is just a fluke, or if it should be expected that it might happen for any site of the network.

I am also curious about the details on what lead to the missing election (there is nothing on the ELU Meta as well) if that information can be disclosed.


As an aside, the title is intentionally punny, and there is no offence meant

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  • 3
    Perhaps a staff member started one but made a mistake, and quickly deleted it before starting another one?
    – Glorfindel Mod
    May 11 at 21:42
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    It's the only reasonable explanation I could come up with, @Glorfindel, yeah. However, what I haven't been able to figure out is why not just delete a database entry and start anew (or ask a dev to delete)... And the case of lost election has been literally bugging me for months, so I finally decided to ask :) May 11 at 21:45
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    Not all staff has database access...
    – Glorfindel Mod
    May 11 at 21:50
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    @Glorfindel isn't it the case where you contact your friendly neighborhood DBA with an "I made an oopsy"? :) May 11 at 21:53

1 Answer 1

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The election was stolen! (No, not really.)

I was able to dig up what happened and it probably doesn't need to be kept secret. Due to a miscommunication (and/or jumping the gun), an election was scheduled in 2019 and then canceled before it was publicly announced. (There isn't any record of it on archive.org unfortunately.) If I look at the page for election 5 now, even as a moderator on ELU, it says "page not found".

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    They're visible immediately upon creation. I'll often create an election and post the link to it for the mods. E.g. - here's a scheduled election on Tor tor.stackexchange.com/election/4
    – Catija StaffMod
    May 11 at 22:13
  • Hmm, that sounds reassuring - I'd still love to get an official response as to whether ids can be relied upon being sequential, but this at least puts my mind at ease regarding what happened! [Catija ninja'd me on when pages are supposed to be seen :)] May 11 at 22:13
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    @Catija It makes me wonder if there's anyone who's constantly scanning the election pages to get the jump on elections...
    – Laurel
    May 11 at 22:16
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    ArtOfCode used to host an election website that did exactly that - so, yes. People have done it previously but I don't know of anything currently.
    – Catija StaffMod
    May 11 at 22:17
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    @Laurel we do :) Since last month, we can now anticipate elections as they are announced as upcoming. We don't scan the /election page for that, though. May 11 at 22:23

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