Voting on a Referendum

How does Voting work on Polkassembly?

Please these steps to vote on a referendum created by a community member -
  1. 1.
    Use the navigation panel on the extreme left to head over to the Referenda tab for the network you have selected
  2. 2.
    Click on the cast vote button
3. You can choose the following while casting a vote
  • Lock Balance - This is the amount of tokens that you wish to lock while voting for the referendum
  • Vote with Account - Lets you choose the account with which you want to vote
  • Vote Lock - Is the period for which you want to lock the amount you are voting with
    • If you lock for 0x, 1x, 2x, 3x ... 6x enactment periods, your vote will get multiplied by 0.1x, 1x, 2x, 3x ... 6x
    • This ensures that those with less tokens can also influence the outcome of the vote
    • The enactment period for Polkadot is 28 days. This varies for each network.
4. You would be required to sign the transaction with your wallet in order to confirm it.
  • The bonded or deposited amount would be returned after the vote lock period ends

Learn about Voting

Voting Timetable

In every referendum cycle (28 days for Polkadot), a new referendum will come up for a vote, assuming there is at least one proposal in one of the queues. There is a queue for Council-approved proposals (Council Motions) and a queue for publicly submitted proposals. The referendum to be voted upon alternates between the top proposal in the two queues.
The "top" proposal is determined by the amount of stake bonded behind it. If the given queue whose turn it is to create a referendum that has no proposals (is empty), and proposals are waiting in the other queue, the top proposal in the other queue will become a referendum.
Multiple referenda cannot be voted upon in the same period, excluding emergency referenda. An emergency referendum occurring at the same time as a regular referendum (either public- or council-proposed) is the only time that multiple referenda will be able to be voted on at once.

Voting on a referendum - How it works?

To vote, a voter generally must lock their tokens up for at least the enactment delay period beyond the end of the referendum. This is in order to ensure that some minimal economic buy-in to the result is needed and to discourage vote selling.
It is possible to vote without locking at all, but your vote is worth a small fraction of a normal vote, given your stake. At the same time, holding only a small amount of tokens does not mean that the holder cannot influence the referendum result, thanks to time-locking.
REFERENDA EXPLAINER VIDEO To learn more about voting on referenda, please check out our technical explainer video.
Peter: Votes No with 10 DOT for a 128 week lock period => 10 x 6 = 60 Votes
Logan: Votes Yes with 20 DOT for a 4 week lock period => 20 x 1 = 20 Votes
Kevin: Votes Yes with 15 DOT for a 8 week lock period => 15 x 2 = 30 Votes
Even though combined both Logan and Kevin vote with more DOT than Peter, the lock period for both of them is less than Peter, leading to their voting power counting as less.


Depending on which entity proposed the proposal and whether all council members voted yes, there are three different scenarios. We can use the following table for reference.
Public (Democracy Proposal)
Positive Turnout Bias (Super-Majority Approve)
Council Motion (Complete agreement)
Negative Turnout Bias (Super-Majority Against)
Council Motion (Majority agreement)
Simple Majority
Also, we need the following information and apply one of the formulas listed below to calculate the voting result. Let's use the public proposal as an example, so the Super-Majority Approve formula will be applied. There is no strict quorum, but the super-majority required increases with lower turnout.
approve - the number of aye votes
against - the number of nay votes
turnout - the total number of voting tokens (does not include conviction)
electorate - the total number of tokens issued in the network

Super-Majority Approve

A positive turnout bias, whereby a heavy super-majority of aye votes is required to carry at low turnouts, but as turnout increases towards 100%, it becomes a simple majority-carries as below.

Super-Majority Against

A negative turnout bias, whereby a heavy super-majority of nay votes is required to reject at low turnouts, but as turnout increases towards 100%, it becomes a simple majority-carries as below.


Majority-carries, a simple comparison of votes; if there are more aye votes than nay, then the proposal is carried, no matter how much stake votes on the proposal.
To know more about where these above formulas come from, please read the democracy pallet.
Assume we only have 1_500 DOT tokens in total and that this is a public proposal.
  • John: 500 DOT
  • Peter: 100 DOT
  • Lilly: 150 DOT
  • JJ: 150 DOT
  • Ken: 600 DOT
John: Votes Yes for a 4 week lock period => 500 x 1 = 500 Votes
Peter: Votes Yes for a 4 week lock period => 100 x 1 = 100 Votes
JJ: Votes No for a 16 week lock period => 150 x 3 = 450 Votes
  • approve = 600
  • against = 450
  • turnout = 750
  • electorate = 1500
Since the above example is a public referendum, Super-Majority Approve would be used to calculate the result. Super-Majority Approve requires more aye votes to pass the referendum when turnout is low, therefore, based on the above result, the referendum will be rejected. In addition, only the winning voter's tokens are locked. If the voters on the losing side of the referendum believe that the outcome will have negative effects, their tokens are transferrable so they will not be locked into the decision. Moreover, winning proposals are autonomously enacted only after some enactment period.

Voluntary Locking

Polkadot utilizes an idea called Voluntary Locking that allows token holders to increase their voting power by declaring how long they are willing to lock up their tokens, hence, the number of votes for each token holder will be calculated by the following formula:
votes = tokens * conviction_multiplier
The conviction multiplier increases the vote multiplier by one every time the number of lock periods double.
The maximum number of "doublings" of the lock period is set to 6 (and thus 32 lock periods in total), and one lock period equals 28 days. Only doublings are allowed; you cannot lock for, say, 24 periods and increase your conviction by 5.5. For additional information regarding the timeline of governance events, check out the governance section on the Polkadot Parameters page.
While a token is locked, you can still use it for voting and staking; you are only prohibited from transferring these tokens to another account.
Votes are still "counted" at the same time (at the end of the voting period), no matter for how long the tokens are locked.
Lock Periods
Vote Multiplier
Length in Days

Adaptive Quorum Biasing

Polkadot introduces a concept, "Adaptive Quorum Biasing", which functions as a lever that the council can use to alter the effective super-majority required to make it easier or more difficult for a proposal to pass in the case that there is no clear majority of voting power backing it or against it.
Let's use the above image as an example.
If a publicly submitted referendum only has a 25% turnout, the tally of "aye" votes has to reach 66% for it to pass since we applied Positive Turnout Bias.
In contrast, when it has a 75% turnout, the tally of "aye" votes has to reach 54%, which means that the super-majority required decreases as the turnout increases.
When the council proposes a new proposal through unanimous consent, the referendum would be put to a vote using "Negative Turnout Bias". In this case, it is easier to pass this proposal with low turnout and requires a super-majority to reject. As more token holders participate in voting, the bias approaches a plain majority carries.
Referring to the above image, when a referendum only has 25% turnout, the tally of "aye" votes has to reach 34% for it to pass.
In short, when the turnout rate is low, a super-majority is required to reject the proposal, which means a lower threshold of "aye" votes have to be reached, but as turnout increases towards 100%, it becomes a simple majority.
All three tallying mechanisms - majority carries, super-majority approve, and super-majority against - equate to a simple majority-carries system at 100% turnout.