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ADR 0020: Governance Support for Delegator Votes


Oasis Core


  • 2022-11-07: Minor updates. Added Cosmos-SDK implementation note.
  • 2022-11-03: Added benchmarks, minor updates.
  • 2022-11-02: Initial draft.




With the current governance voting mechanism (ADR 04), only the active validator set is participating in voting. This means that the validators are voting on behalf of all their delegators. This ADR proposes a change so that each delegator is able to vote with its own stake. The delegators vote acts as an override of the validator vote.


Casting Votes

In the current implementation the submitter of a vote needs to be a part of the active validator committee at the time the vote is cast. This requirement is relaxed so that additionally anyone with a delegation to an active validator committee entity can vote.

This change requires an efficient staking.DelegationsFor query to obtain a list of accounts the submitter is delegating to. Staking state is updated with:

// delegationKeyReverseFmt is the key format used for reverse mapping of
// delegations (delegator address, escrow address).
// Value is CBOR-serialized delegation.
delegationKeyReverseFmt = keyformat.New(0x5A, &staking.Address{}, &staking.Address{})

state.SetDelegation function is updated to store both delegationKeyFmt and the reverse delegationKeyReverseFmt. DelegationsFor query function is updated to use the added reverse mapping.

For completeness the same can be done for debonding delegations, although not necessary for the governance changes proposed in this ADR.

Alternative solutions

Possible alternatives that would avoid adding the reverse mapping are:

  • Querying DelegationsTo for each validator. This results in num_validators queries per cast vote transaction which is still too much.
  • Allowing anyone to cast votes. Potentially a viable solution, but this could result in the number of voters growing uncontrollably large. This might be ok, if the vote tallying procedure would ignore those votes. However the votes state could still grow problematically big.

Vote tallying

When a proposal closes, the vote tallying procedure changes to:

# Two-pass over votes approach.
1 Tally up the validator votes (as it is already implemented) # First pass.
2 For each of the voters do: # Second pass.
3 For each of the entities voter delegates to:
4 Skip non validator entities
5 Skip if voter's vote matches the delegation entity vote
6 Compute stake from the delegation shares
4 If delegation entity voted, subtract the stake from the delegation entity vote tally
5 Add computed stake to the voter's vote tally
  • Possbile variant: instead of using DelegationsFor query in step 3), a map of all validator delegators could be prebuild, by using DelegationTo for each of the validators. Even with the efficient DelegationsFor query, this can be beneficial IF the number of voters is large.

This procedure iterates over all voters and can be beneficial if the number of voters is relatively low compared to the number of all validator delegators.

Alternative Vote Tallying procedures

A possible alternative would be to iterate over the delegators-validator sets:

# Delegators-validator pass approach.
1 Precompute stakes for all delegators to validators from shares.
2 For each validator
3 For each delegator to the validator
4 IF validator and delegators votes match (or delegator didn't vote)
5 Add delegator stake to the validator's vote (or nothing if validator didn't vote)
6 IF validator and delegator vote don't match
7 Add delegator stake to the delegator's vote (or nothing if delegator didn't vote)

The voting procedure now iterates over all delegators of the active validator set. The amount of work is somewhat predictable as it doesn't depend on the number of voters but on the delegators-to-validator sets. However the number of votes is bound by the size of the delegators-to-validator set and in realistic scenario likely much smaller.

Implementations in other chains

Cosmos-SDK uses a similar approach to the proposed solution in the ADR. The tallying iterates over voters, their delegations and validators. For detailed implementation see: Cosmos-SDK Vote Tallying Code. The voting itself is limited to delegators (similar as proposed in this document).


The Vote Tallying procedure variants were benchmarked on mainnet data.

Some basic stats from mainnet:

  • 120 validators
  • ~49500 eligible voters (unique delegators to validators)
  • average number of delegations-to per account is 1

The variants were benchmarked in scenarios with different number of voters. In all scenarios the mainnet consensus state was used, only the number of (simulated) voters varied. All votes were eligible (had at least one delegation to an active validator) and all of the delegator votes did override the validator votes.

The three tested variants were:

  • "Two pass over voters (optimized DelegationsFor)" - as described in the proposed Vote tallying solution. Reverse mapping key is used for the DelegationsFor queries (described in Casting Votes section).
  • "Two pass over voters (pre-build validator escrow)" - as described in the proposed Vote tallying solution with modification of prebuilding a map of all validator delegators (mentioned in the "Possible variant" section).
  • "Validator-delegators" - as described in the alternatives section.

Two pass over voters (optimized DelegationsFor) Two pass over voters (pre-build validators escrow) Validator-delegators

The above results show that:

  • Two-pass approach (querying DelegationsFor for every voter) is fastest up to about 25000 voters for a proposal. In the worst case (every eligible voter voted) it is about twice as slow as the alternatives. In that case the tallying took about 3 seconds.
  • The two-pass approach using pre-built map of all validator delegators is comparable to the "Validator-delegators" procedure. This makes sense as in both cases the main work is done in querying the delegators of validators.

In reality, the number of voters will likely be small compared to the eligible set of all delegators, so the two-pass approach (with querying DelegationsFor for every voter) seems to make the most sense.

If number of voters ever becomes problematic, the method could also implement a heuristic to use the prebuilt validator-delegators map when the number of voters is large (e.g. number of voters > 1/2 eligible delegators), but at the moment there is no efficient way to query the number of all delegators.


With the possibility of increased number of votes per proposal a pruning of votes can be implemented. Votes for a proposal can be pruned as soon as the first block after the proposal is closed. Because proposal is closed in the EndBlock state (which includes votes received in this last block), the pruning should not be done before the block after, so that the exact state at the time of the closing can be queried.

Voting via messages

Delegator can also be a runtime. For enabling runtimes to vote, casting votes should also be supported via runtime messages.

Roothash message type is updated to include governance message field:

type Message struct {
Staking *StakingMessage `json:"staking,omitempty"`
Registry *RegistryMessage `json:"registry,omitempty"`
Governance *GovernanceMessage `json:"governance,omitempty"`

// GovernanceMessage is a governance message that allows a runtime to perform governance operations.
type GovernanceMessage struct {

CastVote *governance.ProposalVote `json:"cast_vote,omitempty"`

Governance backend is updated to handle the cast vote message.

For completeness, support for submitting proposals via runtime messages can also be implemented.



  • Delegators are able to override validators vote. In the case of unresponsive validators this increases the voting participation.
  • Delegators are able to vote with their own stake.
  • (if implemented) Staking DelegationsFor queries are now efficient and don't require scanning the full delegations state.


  • This increases the complexity of the vote tallying procedure.
  • This increases the size of the governance votes state.
  • This increases the complexity and size of the consensus staking state if the DelegationsFor reverse mapping is implemented.