1. Voting is supposed to be "anonymous".
  2. However, users with the required privilege and mods may be able to see who has voted.
  3. However, such access to voting information is a privilege and is supposed to be for their benefit and not for the purpose of violating the anonymity of the voter.
  4. Users who vote, especially down vote, are encouraged to also post a comment explaining their vote. However, this is not mandatory.

So, @Kris ... explain to me please exactly why you downvoted this answer.

How is one supposed to respond to the above comment? (Considering that this is stereotypical case that recurs very often and I myself happen to face the situation not too occasionally.)

Meta: This post is not about the specific comment in question, which is why it is posted on Meta.

[EDIT: post- some comments]

So, as a matter of fact, people with sufficient privileges now do see that the downvote was yours.

I was making no assumptions, only quoting from reliable sources. This was not mentioned earlier so as not to identify the concerned member.

See also:

What reaction did you expect to your copious down-voting of my answers? (17 hours ago)

  • 14
    I didn't have access to any "voting information" other than a pattern of you showing up, commenting on another answer on a question I've answered, and suddenly an answer that's rested comfortably for years gets a down vote, suspiciously within a minute or two of you making your presence known. See? I'm quick like that. Add to that the fact that you believe I have secret information and have "outed" you and we have pretty much established that the down vote was in fact yours, haven't we?
    – Robusto
    Mar 31, 2013 at 2:10
  • 6
    @Robusto: Positively Sherlockian. As your faithful Watson, I can attest to the fact that we can't see who votes how, except by such astonishingly cunning deductions as yours there. Mar 31, 2013 at 2:59
  • @Robusto "This post is not about the specific comment in question" -- Your reaction was not expected on this post. Thanks all the same.
    – Kris
    Mar 31, 2013 at 7:13
  • @TimLymington The assumption that there are too many assumptions is unwarranted and unfounded. :) Edited suitably.
    – Kris
    Mar 31, 2013 at 7:36
  • 5
    @Kris: What reaction did you expect to your copious down-voting of my answers? This was not an isolated incident, and I have called you out on it before. A better question might involve why you seem to bear me such an animus that you seek every opportunity to throw your censure my way.
    – Robusto
    Mar 31, 2013 at 10:55
  • @FumbleFingers: Sherlockian? Come now; I think Lestrade could've figured this one out. :^) As an aside to Kris - if you didn't want this post linked to the specific comment in question, you probably should've found another example. Did you really expect that your one caveat would safeguard this from any critical analysis or subsequent comments? That hardly seems reasonable. As for your link to RegDwight's comment; I believe that's a moderator privilege, not a trusted user privilege.
    – J.R.
    Mar 31, 2013 at 14:22
  • @J.R. I believe that is true only insofar as custom flags only go to the mod flag queue, not the regular flag queue that we all see, and which do actually contain identifying user information for various reasons probably best researched on MSO.
    – tchrist Mod
    Mar 31, 2013 at 18:52
  • @Robusto - it appears we have something in common. I had the exact same experience for weeks until I asked the mods to intervene. Same person, cause of vendetta unknown, but same exact MO. Mar 20, 2014 at 7:12

3 Answers 3


Voting cannot be entirely anonymous because the system must know how you voted in order to colour the voting arrows, calculate rep and detect and correct irregularities.

However, "trusted users" (20k) cannot see who voted. I suspect that mods can't either and it's only the SE team who can, with their privileged access to the database. The -1 on your rep isn't shown in your profile (in order that that vote cannot easily be linked to you), and if anyone were to bother to do detailed calculations on your rep score all that would yield is the total number of answer-downvotes you've made. It wouldn't be possible to time any of them.

Thus any comment such as the one you quote is essentially based on speculation. I see that you edited and commented on another answer at (I guess) more-or-less the same time as the single downvote, so it's possible to see how that speculation resulted in the question to you.

Long-standing and active ELU users may have some knowledge of your stance on certain types of questions or answers, particularly where previous comments have been explicit on a downvote, and this prior pattern can inform that speculation too. It still remains speculation, though.

Normally, I would say that the obvious reply is "I didn't downvote", whether or not that is in fact true. If you don't want to do that, you could reply with a non-committal "You may think I downvoted; don't forget that you can be mistaken."

The ultimate solution and guarantee of anonymity is to separate any activity like editing from voting. Editing an answer brings the question to the top of the "Active questions" list. Once it's been there for fifteen minutes or so, anyone could have voted on it.

  • 1
    Upvoted with misgivings. I'm up for everything except the apparent endorsement of people saying "I didn't downvote", when actually they did. I never do that (well, I would say that, wouldn't I? :) Mar 31, 2013 at 3:03
  • Remember we are on English Q&A, may cannot mean speculation, right? '... may be able to see' -- it either means 'are allowed to' or indicates a possibility (two different senses of may).
    – Kris
    Mar 31, 2013 at 7:30
  • Well, there is no "required privilege", it's not offered; and I don't believe mods can see who downvoted. They may be able to see delete/close "votes in progress" but they would have to deduce correlations in exactly the way Robusto has. Mar 31, 2013 at 9:57
  • 3
    Moderators can see aggregate voting patterns (as in "X number of votes went from user Y to user Z"), but no specifics. Some employees (developers and the community team) can see the specifics, but the UI doesn't make it easy for us to do so in order to reduce the temptation to just casually look this stuff up.
    – Adam Lear StaffMod
    Apr 2, 2013 at 4:55
  • 1
    What Anna said. I'm a mod on another site and I cannot see specific votes, only aggregate data (and only that if it exceeds a certain threshold). Apr 2, 2013 at 20:14
  • Surely the standard phrasing for plausible deniability is, You may very well think so; I couldn't possibly comment. (Or, simpler, simply say nothing at all. There's no need to say anythhing.)
    – TRiG
    Apr 9, 2013 at 12:30

How is one supposed to respond to the above comment?

I think your best course of action would be to explain your downvote. After all, an established user like you must have a good reason for downvoting, right? (I assume your downvotes are based on objectively evaluating answers, downvoting the ones that are "not useful," as opposed to being rooted in some kind of juvenile vendetta or bias.) So, presumably, there was a sound motive for this downvote – all you need to do is explain it. Maybe others will follow suit, once they see the weaknesses of the answer.

Some have proposed that it become mandatory to justify a downvote by providing a reason. I've never agreed with that stance; I believe anonymity is a good thing in this regard. Nevertheless, in this particular case, the cloak of anonymity has been lifted, so there's no longer any reason to remain silent about your line of thinking.

So, how should one respond when such a gauntlet has been thrown? Maturely, civilly, and rationally, of course. Set a good example through your reaction. Either calmly explain the downvote, or else ignore the comment altogether.

  • I hope you are clear with the question. "... your downvote:" Other than the effected member's comments, there's no statement that says I down voted. You may give the question a re-read, this time around without a presumption.
    – Kris
    Apr 1, 2013 at 14:16
  • 8
    @Kris: My answer remains the same: "Be mature, civil, and rational." If it wasn't your downvote, you could simply say so – no need to retain a shroud of mystery about that. But if you don't like that option, that's fine, too. You asked how one should respond; I'm just giving one alternative.
    – J.R.
    Apr 1, 2013 at 16:51

However, users with the required privilege and mods may be able to see who has voted.

As moderator, I can assure you we don't see who voted a specific post. We are alerted when there are suspicious voting patterns, but we never know who voted what.

Users who are not moderators don't see those alerts. They can suspect somebody down-voted them, but they cannot prove that, especially because there are other posts that are down-voted.

If somebody is watching your profile page, and notices your reputation is decreased by 1 when he got a down-vote, then he could deduce you down-voted him; as far as I know, the reputation shown in a profile page is cached, and any reputation change is not immediately shown in the profile page.

How is one supposed to respond to the above comment?

If you effectively down-voted the post, have something constructive to say, and you want to say it, then you can explain why you down-voted. As you said, voting is anonymous; explaining a down-vote is not required.

Often, more than explaining the down-vote, it would be better to explain what is wrong in the post, if something is wrong in it.

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