I have some answers that I voted on when I had a different understanding of the rules from what I have now,or feel that I was too harsh in downvoting. Rereading them, I believe my original vote was incorrect. Here is an example, where I downvoted, but I now think the answer is correct, and would like to change my vote.

However, since the author has not edited the answer since I voted, and since quite some time has passed since I voted, the answer is now "locked in". I cannot change it.

One way I found works is to fix minor glitches in the orginal answer, for example fixing some spelling mistakes, so it counts as edited and you can change your vote. But in general, guidance is to not do such minor edits, so I would like to avoid it going forward. Is there a better way?

Is this rule that you cannot change a vote once cast (and some time has passed - I think you have a few seconds right after you cast it to undo/change it) a global SE rule, or one that we enforce only on this stack?

What are the benefits of that rule? It would seem to me that to change your judgment as you learn and correct earlier mis-votes would be a good thing. Is there some history with being able to change votes later leading to pathological voting behaviours?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Please do not fill the front page with minor edits so you can change your votes to those posts. We can see when you are doing this because the rep changes on the user are publicly viewable even if your voting history isn’t. I can see that three of the answers you just edited had undownvotes, and digging through your revision history, it seems you’ve been doing this with very minor edits for a little while. Please stop. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 6:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ Hi Thomas, yes, I'll stop -- this is the point of this question. I do not think that is a good way to do it. I had limited it to one question per day to not "fill" the front page with it. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 6:42
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    \$\begingroup\$ On March 28 you did it to 11 posts in less than an hour, and on March 29 you did it to 6 posts in less than an hour. When did you start limiting it to one per day? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 6:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ After that, as you provided feedback you dislike me "flooding" the "front page". I honestly think you overestimate the front page importance as a highly active user, most people coming here come via web search and never see it, but I followed your request and reduced it to one per day, mostly (I did 3 today, and then decided to post this question). \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 6:59
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    \$\begingroup\$ As with other big projects that you want to do, please check on meta BEFORE beginning. In the meantime, I've rolled back some unnecessary edits. \$\endgroup\$
    – NotArch
    Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 11:38

2 Answers 2


The general approach is to not worry about it. It's one vote; undoing or recasting it only swings 1 or 2 points total on the answer. That's not that big a deal.

Yes, you can unlock your vote by performing a revision, as you've discovered. However, making minimal edits solely for the purposes of unlocking a vote means you're littering the front page with trivial activity that other people check on. Trivial edits are discouraged, and your training stage of suggested edits prior to reaching 2k rep ought to have conveyed this lesson.

Votes you made in the past that you now regret are like most things that have happened in the past you now regret: they're just mistakes or things where we now know better, and they're not there to be changed, they're there to learn from or to show ourselves we've grown. So look back on that vote and feel it was wrong, but then move past it: it's locked in, don't worry about it, there were other people voting on the same thing and you were just a drop in a bigger current.

While we treat all content as current and you do have the tools available to change your votes, the site is not really equipped to let a prolific user reverse tons of votes long after the fact. Perhaps in theory there should be a reprieve letting you recast your votes after many years, but there isn't one right now. There's just unlocking your votes which done in any volume would be basically a misuse of your edit privilege.

Speaking personally, this author for one has unlocked a post to recast her vote only once in a blue moon in circumstances she felt strongly, but in almost all cases, I also had legitimate edits I wanted to make to genuinely improve the post. In just as many other cases, I felt strongly but moved on and didn't do anything, treating the vote as in the past.

It sounds from the responses to this meta Q like you've been making a project out of reversing old votes. I would strongly discourage that: your energy is better focused anywhere else and such a project is a net negative on the site health, not an improvement. If you're not making a conscious project of it, it sounds like you're still preoccupied unlocking quite a few old votes with trivial edits, and you need to be moving on more often than this.

So: the votes are in the past. Leave them be in the past. They're locked in, that's the way the system wants it, leave them that way.


This meta.se FAQ explains the rules for changing votes:

Limits on changing votes

  • In general, once you have voted, you cannot change your vote. There are two exceptions.

    • Exception one: you may change your vote within a five minute window from the time of the first vote you cast on that post.

    • Exception two: you may remove your vote after every time the post is edited (excluding grace period edits). If you cast a new vote after removing a vote under this exception, that new vote will have a new 5-minute window and will work exactly as above.

  • Notwithstanding the above two exceptions, if you vote and undo your vote on a post 30 times, you cannot vote on that post again.

  • To simply undo a vote — i.e. make it as if you had never voted in the first place — click the "lit up" vote button. The result will be that neither an upvote nor a downvote is active, and you can come back to vote any time you like. Only cast votes are locked in.

  • To reverse a vote — i.e. change an upvote to a downvote or vice versa — click the "unlit" vote button, as you usually would. There is no need to perform an undo first.

  • Close votes and reopen votes that haven't aged away can be retracted on any question which hasn't already reached the threshold to close or reopen. Retracted close and reopen votes still count toward your daily close/reopen vote limit, and you cannot re-cast another close/reopen vote on the same question.

This is something that has been baked into the Stack Exchange system since nearly the Dawn of Time, but was originally put in place to combat tactical downvoting (see that answer’s list of revisions for more detail on the history). Jeff Atwood reduced the change window to a very brief time, then later increased it to five minutes to be consistent with the five minute grace period for editing.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Interesting that Atwoods post on why he changed it to be a time limited window has a dozen downvotes too, with comments that indicate many do not think this mechanism is that useful in achieving what it purports to do. +1 for the good factual answer \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 12:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ @GroodytheHobgoblin It’s actually +34/-46. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 26, 2023 at 13:13

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