Recently this question — Is the “Defund the police”-argument anti-police or not? — was closed. I thought the question was salvageable and voted to reopen, as did three others for a total of four:

reopen image

Yet when the question came up for review, it remained closes on a 3:1 count, per the history link:

leave closed image

Needless to say, the numbers do not add up, so some other thing must be going on that I am unaware of. I never saw this 'reopen' question appear in my review queue (is 14K rep insufficient?), no discussion was held on the question comments or any other place that I could discover; the process appeared to be arbitrary and officious, and I'd appreciate it if someone could clarify what actually happened.

I'm happy to discuss why the article ought to be reopened, though I think the answer I gave shows that it's possible to respond to such questions in a neutral and informative (if somewhat pedantic) tone. But here I'm more concerned with the inner political workings of Politics Stack Exchange than the question itself, so please answer with that in mind. I don't 'get' how decisions are made on this site, and I'd prefer to be better informed.

Thanks in advance for clarifying.


I'm beginning to get a handle on how the system works (per my discussion below with Glorfindel, whom I thank), but I have to say that I dislike it. It seems anyone who wants to reopen a question is forced to vote strategically; they can either:

  • Vote on the page to put the question on the reopen queue, which bars them from any further action, or...
  • Hope that other people vote to put the question on the reopen queue, so that they can participate in the actual discussion and vote on reopening.

This puts a strong bias against reopening questions (since those who want to reopen have to strategically allocate their votes). In this case, for instance, my correct move was not to vote for reopen on the page (since there were already three votes), so that I would be allowed to vote on the review queue. But that's not explained anywhere that I know of, and I can't see the sense or logic behind it at all (unless the intention is explicitly to make reopen votes more difficult to accomplish).

Was the process intentionally designed to have this effect, or is it an unintented consequence? Or is it all happenstance (e.g., a process that sounded good on paper but doesn't work quite right in practice)?

3 Answers 3


The wording is confusing, but reopen votes and the reopen review queue are actually 2 separate things.

A question gets reopened when it gets sufficient reopen votes. To enable improved or improperly closed questions to get reopened, certain actions get the question put into the reopen queue to get additional attention. In the queue, people can review the question and decided to either: 1) vote to reopen (which counts as a reopen vote) or 2) vote to "Leave Closed".

If a question gets 3 "Leave Closed" votes, it gets removed from the reopen queue and "reopen" votes will start to expire immediately at a rate of 1 per day.. However, reopen votes remain and people can still vote to reopen it. It doesn't get super-closed, it just means that it won't be highlighted for review.

So in this case, the decision by the 3 "Leave Closed" voters resulted in the question being removed from the reopen queue, but if people reading the question disagree (or who get linked to it from by a meta post), they can still vote to reopen.

  • I'm beginning to understand the process from my conversation with @Glorfindel, above, but I'm really disliking it. It seems as though I'm forced into a choice: either I vote to put the question on the reopen queue (barring me from any further action), or I hope that someone else votes to put it on the reopen queue so that I can then participate in reviewing it and actually voting to reopen it. It forces me to vote strategically (game the system) rather than participate openly, which I find objectionable. It's a flawed system. Jul 21, 2020 at 17:46
  • My understanding is that a vote to reopen is exactly the same whether you vote on the question or in the queue. The only thing gained by voting reopen in the queue is that you don't vote to Leave Closed there. I don't think there's any significant benefit for gaming the system in that way, though that feeling isn't backed by any real data.
    – divibisan
    Jul 21, 2020 at 17:50
  • I've edited the question with the information I've gather so far. The problem is that only the votes on the queue count towards reopening the question. The system basically means that three people who would like the question reopened don't get to vote on the actual vote, because thy have to use their votes to put the question on the queue. Jul 21, 2020 at 17:59
  • 3
    @TedWrigley That's not true. If you look at the timeline for the question, you'll see that it was reopened by 5 votes (including yours) as a separate action than the review queue. There's nothing special about reopen votes cast from review. Your vote from the question page both counts as a vote to reopen and puts it into the queue.
    – divibisan
    Jul 21, 2020 at 18:12
  • The timeline changed since I posted this question, which makes me wonder what that 'leave closed' vote yesterday was all about. Maybe I need to consider that this process is not so much a 'process' as a fluid 'happening.' That makes my brain hurt, but... Jul 21, 2020 at 18:27
  • Accepted because of the useful discussion in comments. Jul 28, 2020 at 17:58
  • There is also option 3: skip (no vote cast)
    – Jan
    Jan 12, 2021 at 8:01

I never saw this 'reopen' question appear in my review queue

That's because you already voted to reopen it. This started the review task, which is to be performed by others, as all review tasks in the system do.

Three 'Leave Closed' reviews complete a Reopen Votes review queue task (just like three 'Leave Open' reviews complete a Close Votes review queue task). That means those users have decided (3:1) that the question doesn't get reopened via the review queue; it's still possible that it will be reopened, but only if another user happens to view the question and votes to reopen it.

  • I'm sorry, but that doesn't really answer my question. If I and three others 'implicitly' voted to reopen, then the review should have read 3:4 (or maybe 3:5) in favor of reopening, not 3:1 in favor of leaving closed. Unless you're saying that the only purpose in casting a 'reopen' vote is to create the opportunity for other people to make the final decision? Jul 21, 2020 at 16:00
  • 3
    The final sentence is correct. But 3:4 isn't correct; one simply doesn't know how many people visited the question and decided not to hit the 'reopen' button. It could be 30:4 for all we know ...
    – Glorfindel
    Jul 21, 2020 at 16:03
  • I'm sorry, but that makes even less sense. As far as I can see, the number of people who visit a page and do not click a button ought to be completely irrelevant; why would that matter? The simple fact is that I cast a vote to reopen that was apparently never counted in the actual vote to reopen, and I do not understand why that is. Nor was I given the opportunity to discuss the issue with anyone, at any time. This answer is not adding any clarification to those issues. Jul 21, 2020 at 16:09
  • Perhaps, if you could clarify this line: "In some sense, you have already reviewed it, it just doesn't count as a review." I get the first part, but why does my review not count as a review? Jul 21, 2020 at 16:11
  • 1
    I understand how that might be confusing, I've edited it out now. You can think of the review queues as a process separate from what happens on the main site, where five close votes close a question, and five subsequent reopen votes reopen it again.
    – Glorfindel
    Jul 21, 2020 at 16:17
  • So in other words, if I cast a vote on the actual page to reopen a question, I am then shut out of any further votes and discussion, and my vote to reopen is discarded? The very people who want a question to be reopened are prohibited from any further participation? Pardon me for saying so, but if that's true it is objectively stupid and needs to be revised. Jul 21, 2020 at 16:36
  • 1
    Your vote is not discarded, it's still one of the five votes needed to reopen. You are excluded from the review queue, but as I said, it's not the only way to reopen a question. I could have a look and see how many questions are reopened outside of the queue vs. by the queue itself.
    – Glorfindel
    Jul 21, 2020 at 16:39
  • Oh, c'mon. The system you've described is heavily biased against reopening. Three people who want the question reopened have to throw their vote away merely bringing the matter up for consideration, while those who want the question closed (including, I assume, the three who originally closed the question) have no such limitation. Maybe that's what the site wants — maybe there's a logic behind it I don't see — but it is prima facie irrational. Jul 21, 2020 at 16:45
  • I can see your point, but the same thing applies to closing (when a question is still open). Three people who want the question to remain open complete a Close Vote review queue item as well.
    – Glorfindel
    Jul 21, 2020 at 17:36
  • I've edited the question with the information I've learned from you. Thank you. Jul 21, 2020 at 17:59
  • Ah, I had not considered that. So the system isn't broken, exactly, it's just peculiar. Is there a link that explains this, or are you working from personal experience and knowledge? Jul 21, 2020 at 18:23
  • 1
    The link in my answer explains how the system works, but not why. I'm not sure if there is any documented reasoning, but you might want to browse related topics on Meta Stack Exchange.
    – Glorfindel
    Jul 21, 2020 at 18:27
  • 1
    @TedWrigley this question gives an overview of the 'life cycle' of a question on Stack Exchange.
    – Glorfindel
    Jul 21, 2020 at 18:43

You aren’t understanding the process.

For a question to be reopened, five reopen votes (or one reopen vote by a diamond mod) need to be applied to the question.

There are two ways a question can receive reopen votes:

  1. Someone navigates to the actual question page and clicks the little reopen link (the one with the (4) in your image)

  2. Someone sees the question in the reopen queue and clicks reopen

These two ways of casting reopen votes are identical! There is no difference between a queue-vote and a question-page vote. Five positive votes of any kind will reopen the question.

If you have voted on the question page, you can no longer access the review queue for this question. Likewise, if you voted through the queue you cannot cast an additional vote from the page.

So what does the queue do? It is designed as a way to get additional eyes on a question – facilitate the reopening if you wish. After the first reopen vote is dropped, the question enters the queue until review is completed. The review can be completed in one of two ways:

  1. The question receives a total of five reopen votes/one by a diamond moderator (it does not matter whether these were dropped via the queue or the question page) and is thereby reopened;

  2. Three people in the review queue vote to leave closed (this is what you see in the second image).

The review queue is not a democratic vote. It exists purely to guide additional pairs of eyes to questions that might require votes.

The only caveat here is that reopen votes start expiring after the review ended with a leave close vote (see divibisan’s answer). The expiration is slow but is meant to prevent a question sitting at four votes for months and then getting a fifth vote randomly. Reopening is intended to be a rather rapid process.

The same process applies to close votes (except it is called leave open and the review queue has an edit field with a slightly different effect).

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