Regarding "forced empathy", I wonder if some other system could be worked out instead such as not counting the vote if it would cause an XP loss [to the person doing the voting]? Perhaps this could even be configurable (so those who are fine with losing some XP can do so while those who do not like the idea can avoid it). Or as I suggested in a previous post what about sending a message to the user's inbox letting them know they are close to exceeding the threshold (since it sounds like it takes some effort to hit the threshold)?
Anyway, I'm just throwing some ideas out because I think sending negative feedback for positive actions will discourage the positive actions. Overall I like the changes -- I just wish this could be more of a win-win type situation.