I've found many questions here regarding this 'feature' and many answers explaining how it works, but none showing any 'philosophical' concept behind it. i.e., why is it here? Is it helping to make site better?

For example, just now I made a downvote, retracted it to think a bit more, left a comment with explanation and tried to downvote again. No game.
And this is not the only real-life situation when value of this 'feature' is doubtful. There're plenty on this meta.

So, what was the primary reason to introduce it? A flow of people who change all their votes on daily basis?


2 Answers 2


If I remember correctly it's to prevent people from downvoting competing answers. For example, say I answer an easy question then notice that five other people posted basically the same answer at the same time. I could just downvote them all so my answer is the top one, and slightly more likely to get the first few upvotes. Once I get a comfortable lead of 2-3 votes I can then go back and undo all the downvotes to get my five reputation points back and to cover my tracks. This sort of thing is prevented by vote locking.

  • 5
    Correct. From If you just witnessed tactical downvoting, is it a reportable offense?: To help deal with the "tactical downvoting" problem, we have radically reduced the window for undoing votes.
    – Arjan
    Jan 19, 2011 at 13:47
  • 53
    Thanks! Isn't that a bit like curing headache with an axe? We can deal with tactical downvoting without enforcing irrelevant (and sometimes harmful) rule on the whole community. (Not sure if I need to create another question with 'feature-request' tag for that) Jan 19, 2011 at 13:52
  • 47
    "it's to prevent people from downvoting competing answers" But it doesn't. You can still downvote everyone else, lose a little rep, and gain it all back when your answer gets upvotes. All this rule does is makes tactical downvoting more harmful to the victims.
    – endolith
    May 9, 2012 at 19:59
  • 6
    @BilltheLizard: How could someone be suspected of it when votes are anonymous? How would you distinguish between tactical downvoting and downvoting everyone else's answers because they're wrong? If tactical downvoting isn't even a significant problem, why cripple the site over it and lock-in erroneous votes that permanently give subtly wrong answers more prominence than they deserve?
    – endolith
    May 10, 2012 at 1:31
  • 6
    @BilltheLizard: Of course it is. How do you change your vote if the post is never edited, but a comment or another answer shows that your vote was wrong?
    – endolith
    May 10, 2012 at 1:53
  • 1
    @BilltheLizard: Yes, we're aware of the hacky workaround for the bug in the site's policies. It's still a bug.
    – endolith
    May 10, 2012 at 2:43
  • 57
    @BilltheLizard: I initially upvoted an answer, only to find out that it actually didn't answer the OP's question. So I answered it myself, and wanted NOT TO DOWNVOTE, but to remove my initial upvote. Because of this provision, I can't. If this feature intends to prevent tactical downvotes, then please let me retract my upvote. Sep 30, 2012 at 4:45
  • 17
    @BilltheLizard: I just encountered the same situation as explained above by DanDascalescu, I upvoted an answer only to try the solution in the answer myself only find that the answer didn't work. Nov 19, 2012 at 2:01
  • 4
    If this is to prevent tactical downvoting, then why does it also prohibit the undoing of a downvote? Furthermore I fail to see how it does prevent tactical downvoting: a user is still allowed to downvote answers, but once (s)he does so, is now prevented from undoing that action.
    – devios1
    Nov 28, 2012 at 23:44
  • 7
    @BilltheLizard Gotcha. I see what it's attempting to solve now. Just off the top of my head, I think a better solution would be not to reward rep points on an undone downvote.
    – devios1
    Nov 28, 2012 at 23:58
  • 4
    I haven't seen anyone explain @DanDascalescu's comment about undoing an upvote retraction after you have voted an incorrect answer and subsequently answered it yourself. Does it work out the same but in a different direction? Thats the reason I'm ended up searching this thread out anyway.
    – rtpHarry
    Aug 14, 2013 at 20:01
  • 5
    Can't you make it -3 rep to downvote when you have an answer in the same question?
    – bjb568
    Mar 1, 2014 at 23:28
  • 3
    How would someone cover his/hers tracks if their actions is stored elsewhere as well? It is perfectly possible to store that I upvoted/downvoted a question but retracted the vote. Apr 21, 2014 at 7:01
  • 2
    I accidentally downvoted somebody. I wanted to actually upvote. I don't understand why you don't just prevent changing vote on questions that the voter has also answered. Oct 12, 2015 at 15:41
  • 2
    Recently, I upvoted an answer and a bit more time later i found that the approach doesn't work like i wanted to. Now i'm unable to cancel my vote at all
    – IC_
    Oct 8, 2020 at 6:22

I downvoted an answer and explained the reason why in the comments. The person defended his answer with an argument and I decided, that he is right, and I am wrong. I tried to undo my downvote but it doesn't work. It's locked.

I did not even answer the question myself, so this could be an additional test, to prevent tactical voting.

A second addition could be, to allow one mindchange per day or week. I guess tactical downvoters need many changes per day and won't like to undo their votes in small doses, because then it gets much work.

As fresbend mentions in his comment, not only downvotes are locked, but upvotes too. And for tactical downvotes, a downvoter doesn't need to undo his downvotes. If this idea of tactical downvotes, which has not been shown to be a real world phenomena, is a real world problem, it would only be rational to undo downvotes if you downvote 5 or more competing answers.

From the minority of tactical downvoters, which might exist, a minority might want to undo their downvotes. And only a minority therefrom would abstain from downvoting, if it can't be undone.

  • 2
    A workaround is to make a trivial edit to unlock your vote, if you don't have enough rep to edit without review this might not work though unless you can identify something substantive to improve. Mar 9, 2014 at 17:19
  • 6
    @MartinSmith: Well, yes, I thought about this, but it is an ugly workaround. I have to disturb the person with another comment to explain my void edit, have to do an useless edit which doesn't appear as an edit. Mar 9, 2014 at 17:28
  • Yes I agree. Doubt it will be changed though (for reasons a bit different from stated in Bill's answer). This was brought up relatively recently here Don't lock upvotes Mar 9, 2014 at 17:35
  • 12
    Another scenario (the reason that brought me here) is that I accidentally downvoted someone, then realized I did, wanted to take it back, and couldn't.
    – Miguel
    Mar 30, 2014 at 22:20
  • 15
    the vote locking is a stupid 'feature'... how do we vote to get rid of it?
    – Anentropic
    Nov 18, 2015 at 10:36
  • 11
    Tactical downvoters need not undo any downvotes. This measure doesn't prevent the practice. It doesn't even make it a little harder. Further, the measure affects upvotes too. If I want to undo an upvote (many legitimate reasons), I cannot.
    – user212646
    Feb 7, 2017 at 20:59
  • 2
    @Anentropic Start a fork of Stack Exchange, I guess. They clearly have no intention of ever fixing this bug.
    – endolith
    Oct 25, 2017 at 14:00
  • 1
    I tested now to edit question by adding empty line, and was able to remove my upvote as the answer turned out wrong for me later... so this is stupid workaround but at last something
    – Renetik
    Mar 10, 2020 at 19:26
  • I did the same, but vice-versa. I want to cancel my upvote due to the answer not working for me as i wanted to
    – IC_
    Oct 8, 2020 at 6:23
  • I upvoted an answer only to realize later that there is a serious bug in the given answer. I didn't want to down vote it but at least remove my vote. couldn't do it. Sep 8, 2023 at 16:28

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