# What are reasons for allowing anonymous voting?

What reasons for anonymity of voting overcome the following objection?

A down-vote fails to communicate what is thought to be wrong. Suppose I post a question that says "Doesn't the fact that $2+3=5$ mean that $2\cdot3$ must also be $5$?". Someone down-votes it. It may be that they down-voted it because they thought I was mistaken in thinking that addition is the same thing as multiplication. But I may have had doubts about whether the number $3$ exists and I may suspect it was down-voted because of my confused and erroneous belief that that number exists. Or I may mistakenly think it was down-voted because it's not research-level math, despite the fact that most mathematicians know that the proposition that $2\cdot3=5$ is one of the great unproved conjectures. Or I may suspect someone down-voted it because he thought I'm having an affair with his wife. A simple verbal statement saying "It is well known, having been proved by Paul Erdős in 1939, that multiplication is not the same thing as addition." would make it clear what the objection is. A non-anonymous downvote would make it possible for me to ask the person specifically what the objection is. A system that communicates the fact that there is an objection but withholds all information about what it is cannot indicate in what direction content should be altered to make it appropriate.

• I've taken the liberty to reword your title so someone looking at the meta front page knows what the question is about, and also of removing your parenthetical preamble, as it didn't seem to add anything. Sep 16, 2013 at 4:49
• Feel free to revert either or both change, of course. Sep 16, 2013 at 4:49
• Michael has had a number of heavily downvoted posts on meta recently; on many of those posts I've largely agreed with the (presumed) intent behind those downvotes. This question is, in my opinion, a very reasonable question. Can we please attempt to be civil and constructive here, irrespective of the history? In particular, please don't downvote anonymously. Sep 16, 2013 at 5:49
• You're only talking about downvotes. Do you also think anonymous upvotes are objectionable? Why/why not? Sep 16, 2013 at 5:58
• I think it's quite common for at least one person to explain why they've downvoted in a comment--it seems unnecessary to make everyone explain (especially since, in most cases, people are downvoting for the same reasons). Sep 16, 2013 at 7:34
• "A non-anonymous downvote would make it possible for me to ask the person specifically what the objection is." I think this is a good argument in favor of anonymous downvotes. If I downvote a question/answer then I have NO interest in receiving an e-mail a few hours later demanding that I explain myself. If I want to communicate something to the person I'm downvoting I can leave a comment (or upvote an existing one), and if I don't then I probably really don't want to get drawn into an extended e-mail discussion with this person. Sep 16, 2013 at 14:34
• +1000 to Dan Petersen. Sep 16, 2013 at 15:29
• @DanPetersen : I was not suggesting that only down-voters should be identified; rather I was suggesting that there are certain concerns about those that are different: the original poster MAY NOT KNOW that the reason for the down-vote was not actually that the voter doesn't like the football team favored by the original poster. Presumably when one posts, one knows of reasons for posting but does not know reasons not to post. Sep 16, 2013 at 19:06
• Since this anonymity applies throughout the stackexchange system, maybe this question should be asked (or even has been asked) at a higher level. Mar 4, 2015 at 14:10
• @GeraldEdgar In fact, there are several related posts on meta.SE, for example Is down voting supposed to be anonymous? (Somewhat delayed reply to your comment - prompted mainly by the fact that a similar question was recently asked on this meta. Perhaps the meta.SE link might be useful for users who stumble upon this older thread.) Jan 30, 2017 at 8:23

Your objection is indeed a reasonable objection to anonymous downvoting.

Let me list several reasons in favour of anonymous voting, without attempting to evaluate whether they 'overcome' it.

• It is how the software works, it seems extremely unlikely that the SE folks would implement public voting across SE, and rather unlikely that they'd implement it for us.

• It allows rubbish questions to be removed quickly without giving a troll, spammer, or otherwise unwelcome poster particular people to pick fights with.

• It is important to the site that good questions receive high vote counts, and bad questions receive high negative vote counts. (Greater spreads convey more information, and provide stronger feedback for posters.) Non-anonymous voting would, in my opinion, severely restrict the overall voting rate.

• It ensures that people feel able to reward (or 'punish') questions which they like, for reasons particular to them. Public voting might result in all votes being held to a 'standard', such as "I have read the answers and certify it's correctness and relevance" which would be way too high for the site to function in anything close to its current form.

• I don't see how your second bullet point makes any sense. How could the removal of a "rubbish question" be retarded by an ability to see who votes on it? Removal doesn't depend on up-votes or down-votes, does it? Why can't it be removed just as fast if nobody votes on it or people who up-vote or down-vote it are identified? Sep 16, 2013 at 19:02
• 10 downvotes results in the question being deleted. Sep 16, 2013 at 22:01
• @ScottMorrison Do you have a reference for this claim (10 dv -> deletion)? I doubt this is true. See stackoverflow.com/questions/18833476/… for an example of a question (without answer!) at -14 (on SO, but I doubt this is different there). It is however true that score can be relevant related to (auto)deletion of (closed) questions and also can have an effect for questions being on the frontpage or not.
– user9072
Sep 16, 2013 at 22:47
• Hrm, you're right. The "community user" does delete and lock questions, but the criteria is more complicated, and presumably involved spam flags too. Sep 17, 2013 at 0:41
• Regardless of auto-deletion, if I see a heavily down-voted question on the front page, I'm likely to click through and consider deleting it. Those down-votes act as a useful signal. Sep 17, 2013 at 0:43
• @ScottMorrison Downvotes alone never delete a post. 6 spam/offensive flag will remove and lock a post. And there is some cleanup of older closed or unanswered questions with a negative score. But downvotes alone can't remove a post.
– user35354
Sep 17, 2013 at 14:24
• If a question has negative total vote and remains unanswered for a few months then it is automatically deleted. But a question with answers with positive vote is not even if it have very high negative vote. Sep 18, 2013 at 0:03
• Regarding the anonymity, I think it is not much different from why we would like the reviewers to remain anonymous to the authors. The only difference is we might want to encourage a constructive feedback more. The system already shows a note when someone down-votes a posts reminding them to comment. Sep 18, 2013 at 0:08
• Another possible feature-request is to allow anonymous comments for users with high enough reputation. There can be some possible negative consequences that needs to be thought about (but the system can allow moderators to check the identity of the author if something bad happens and ban anonymous commenting feature for users abusing it). Aside from that there might be also be technical reasons that make anonymous commenting feature difficult to implement. Sep 18, 2013 at 0:10
• "It is important to the site that good questions receive high vote counts, and bad questions receive high negative vote counts."-This is not working very well on this site. Apr 20, 2019 at 13:12