The Voting Process

The design of the Tezos Node allows the consensus protocol to be amended, that is replaced by another set of OCaml files which implement the API of a valid protocol.

In the current protocol the amendment procedure is guided by a voting procedure where delegates can propose, select and test a candidate protocol before activating it. Delegates take part in the amendment procedure with an influence proportional to their stake, one roll one vote.

The procedure consists of five voting periods, each of 40960 blocks (5 cycles, or ~two weeks), for a total of approximately 2 months and a half. Voting periods align with cycles: a voting period starts at the first block of a cycle.

Other than this page, there is an excellent overview from Jacob Arluck on medium.


The voting procedure works as follows:

  • Proposal period: delegates can submit protocol amendment proposals using the proposals operation. At the end of a proposal period, the proposal with most supporters is selected and we move to a exploration period. If there are no proposals, or a tie between proposals, a new proposal period starts. Each delegate can submit a maximum of 20 proposals, including duplicates.

  • Exploration period: delegates can cast one vote to pursue the voting process or not with the winning proposal using the ballot operation. At the end of a exploration period if participation reaches the quorum and the proposal has a super-majority in favor, we proceed to a cooldown period. Otherwise we go back to a proposal period.

  • Cooldown period: The only purpose of this period is to let some time elapse before the promotion period.

  • Promotion period: delegates can cast one vote to promote or not the proposal using the ballot operation. At the end of a promotion period if participation reaches the quorum and the proposal has a super-majority in favor, we proceed to adoption period. Otherwise we go back to a proposal period.

  • Adoption period: at the end of the period the proposal is activated as the new protocol and we go back to a proposal period.

It is important to note that the stake of each delegate is computed at the beginning of each voting period, and if the delegate owns one roll or more, its stake in number of rolls is stored in a list called the voting listings.

Following the adoption period the protocol is activated. After this step the blocks added to the chain are interpreted in the newly activated protocol. As a result gas costs (and other such details of operation inclusion) may differ.

The Hash and the Protocol

Note that the voting procedure revolves around the hash of a protocol proposal whilst the activation revolves around the protocol itself. Consequently, if the protocol that the hash identifies is invalid, the activation step fails.

A protocol is invalid if the code cannot be compiled (e.g., if the code is not valid source code), if the code uses functions not present in the protocol environment, or if it downgrades the protocol environment version.

If the protocol is invalid and the activation fails, the chain becomes stuck. Thus, when voting, it is important to vote for hashes that designate a protocol with sources that are available and valid.

Super-majority and Quorum

Both voting periods work in the same way, only the subject of the vote differs. During a vote a delegate can cast a single Yea, Nay or Pass vote. A vote is successful if it has super-majority and the participation reaches the current quorum.

Super-majority means the Yeas are more than 8/10 of Yeas+Nays votes. The participation is the ratio of all received votes, including passes, with respect to the number of possible votes. The quorum starts at 80% and at each vote it is updated using the old quorum and the current participation with the following coefficients:

newQ = oldQ * 8/10 + participation * 2/10

More details can be found in the file src/proto_010_PtGRANAD/lib_protocol/


There are two operations used by the delegates: proposals and ballot. A proposal operation can only be submitted during a proposal period.

Proposals : {
  source: Signature.Public_key_hash.t ;
  period: Voting_period_repr.t ;
  proposals: Protocol_hash.t list ; }

Source is the public key hash of the delegate, period is the unique identifier of each voting period and proposals is a non-empty list of maximum 20 protocol hashes. The operation can be submitted more than once but only as long as the cumulative length of the proposals lists is less than 20. Duplicate proposals from the same delegate are accounted for in the maximum number of proposals for that delegate. However duplicates from the same delegate are not tallied at the end of the proposal period.

For example, a delegate submits a proposals operation for protocols A and B early in the proposal period, later a new protocol C is revealed and the delegate submits another proposals operation for protocols B and C. The list of submissions that will be tallied is [A,B,C].

A ballot operation can only be submitted during one of the voting periods, and only once per period.

Ballot : {
  source: Signature.Public_key_hash.t ;
  period: Voting_period_repr.t ;
  proposal: Protocol_hash.t ;
  ballot: Vote_repr.ballot ; }

Source and period are the same as above, while proposal is the currently selected proposal and ballot is one of Yea, Nay or Pass. The pass vote allows a delegate to not influence a vote but still allowing it to reach quorum.

More details can be found, as for all operations, in src/proto_010_PtGRANAD/lib_protocol/ The binary format is described by tezos-client describe unsigned operation.

Client Commands

Tezos’ client provides a command to show the status of a voting period. It displays different informations for different kind of periods, as in the following samples:

$ tezos-client show voting period
Current period: "proposal"
Blocks remaining until end of period: 59
Current proposals:
PsNa6jTtsRfbGaNSoYXNTNM5A7c3Lji22Yf2ZhpFUjQFC17iZVp 400

$ tezos-client show voting period
Current period: "exploration"
Blocks remaining until end of period: 63
Current proposal: PsNa6jTtsRfbGaNSoYXNTNM5A7c3Lji22Yf2ZhpFUjQFC17iZVp
Ballots: { "yay": 400, "nay": 0, "pass": 0 }
Current participation 20.00%, necessary quorum 80.00%
Current in favor 400, needed supermajority 320

$ tezos-client show voting period
Current period: "cooldown"
Blocks remaining until end of period: 64
Current proposal: PsNa6jTtsRfbGaNSoYXNTNM5A7c3Lji22Yf2ZhpFUjQFC17iZVp

It should be noted that the number 400 above is a number of rolls. The proposal has a total of 400 rolls, which may come from several delegates. The same applies for the ballots, there are 400 rolls in favor of testing protocol PsNa6jTt.

Submit proposals

During a proposal period, the list of proposals can be submitted with:

tezos-client submit proposals for <delegate> <proposal1> <proposal2> ...

Remember that each delegate can submit a maximum of 20 protocol hashes including duplicates. Moreover each proposal is accepted only if it meets one of the following two conditions:

  • the protocol hash was already proposed on the network. In this case we can submit an additional proposal that “upvotes” an existing one and our rolls are added to the ones already supporting the proposal.

  • the protocol is known by the node. In particular the first proposer of a protocol should be able to successfully inject the protocol in its node which performs some checks, compiles and loads the protocol.

Submit ballots

During a voting period, being it an exploration or a promotion period, ballots can be submitted once with:

tezos-client submit ballot for <delegate> <proposal> <yay|nay|pass>

Other resources

For more details on the client commands refer to the manual at Client manual.

For vote related RPCs check the RPCs - Index under the prefix votes/.

For Ledger support refer to Obsidian Systems’ documentation.