Today I found a questions to be a duplicate, and I even remembered that I gave an answer to the non-duplicate. As I tried to close the duplicate as a duplicate, it told me I can't choose the question I was thinking of, because it has no upvoted and no accepted answer.

Why is there this restriction? Should you flag a question in such a case (where you know that the given answers are at least a starting point).

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Perhaps seeing the specific Q's would help us decide if they are answerable or if not, perhaps should be closed as not constructive. –  hardmath Mar 21 '13 at 11:15
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2 Answers

I think the idea is that if the older question has no upvoted or accepted answer, then it may well be the case that the newer version has done a better job of asking the question, in which case it would be preferable to close the older one as a duplicate of the newer one. This view is expressed by Gilles. I think this motivation is reasonable.

Many are opposed to the policy; what I find to be good arguments against it are given by fbueckert:

This new rule seems to encourage dupes of unanswered questions, which, if no one can answer the question, means we just gather un-closable questions. I suspect we'll shortly get answers that do nothing but go, "I don't know", and get upvotes, just so we can close them.

and BenBrocka:

What happens when one of the questions gets an answer? The effort to find the duplicate earlier goes wasted and someone else has to find the dupes yet again after one is answered, and know which one is answered just to be able to close.

The feature request on meta.SO asking that this policy be overturned was declined, so I doubt there's much chance of it changing in the near future. In the meantime, I think a reasonable solution is that, if you find duplicate questions none of which can be closed as a duplicate of any other, to post links to the others in the comments, so that they can be easily noticed when necessary. If you think that there's a strong reason to close something as a duplicate and you're unable to do so because there are no answers, that's when I think it'd be okay to flag a moderator; if there are answers but none with upvotes, just give one of them an upvote, it's not a big deal.

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If the software is broken, just work around it. Pick one of the other closing reasons, and note in a comment that the question is a duplicate. It should not be necessary to flag the post unless there is some other problem, the normal closing procedure can handle it.

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Or, vote an answer of the duplicate, vote to close, then cancel the vote on the answer. –  Asaf Karagila Mar 15 '13 at 22:07
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I'd be interested in a dialogue with the downvoters - particularly given that, on meta, it is not always clear whether participants are community members of math.SE. –  Carl Mummert Mar 20 '13 at 2:14
    
If specific duplicated Q's have no (valid) answers at all, it should perhaps be discussed in comments on one or the other whether these are not constructive (or if some other reason exists for why they have no answer). By valid answer I mean one that addresses the question, though perhaps incompletely. –  hardmath Mar 21 '13 at 11:19
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