Entering Voltaire: on-chain poll for SPOs

The advent of Voltaire heralds the transition to a fully decentralized, self-sustaining network, where those maintaining the infrastructure as well as the ones participating on-chain through delegation play a vital role in the decision-making. The Cardano Foundation wants to ensure that, in true Voltaire fashion, the various involved parties have a voice in the process.

As a first step, we invite all stake pool operators (SPOs) to take part in an on-chain poll experiment that will help shape the future of Cardano.

The infrastructure introduced during Shelley created the basis for decentralization, putting in place a delegation and incentives scheme that encourages participation while also installing a mechanism to deter dishonest behavior. Someone wishing to contribute to the chain without having to perform technical duties, can do it by delegating their funds to a stake pool of their own choosing. In turn, the SPOs operating the stake pools both validate and process transactions, plus produce new blocks.

A proof-of-stake blockchain relies on this symbiosis between delegators and SPOs. The rewards that a stake pool can receive when randomly selected to create a new block in the chain, will also be distributed among the delegators to that pool. The bigger the combined stake held by the stake pool, the greater the likelihood of the proof-of-stake algorithm picking that stake pool. If an SPO behaves incorrectly or the delegators dislike the SPO’s attitudes or goals, they can withdraw their stake, weakening the SPO’s on-chain influence. In this way, Shelley established the conditions for a governance system with checks and balances, one that distributes power. It fosters democracy.

The network has now reached a state where it can be maintained and improved using decentralized governance mechanisms. As the ecosystem moves towards a more robust and direct participation, it becomes crucial to hear from as many people as possible. Different experiences not only contribute to diversity but also bring forth perspectives and concerns that might otherwise escape attention. Taking them into account will strengthen the ecosystem’s resilience.

Similarly, we as an extended community should not decide to update governance parameters without first engaging in open discussions and adopting Voltaire-minded mechanisms. In fact, the Cardano Foundation wishes to make it easier for the Cardano community to have a say in the development of network updates, technical improvements, and the future of the ecosystem as a whole. Crucially, the Foundation looks to do so by offering a transparent, on-chain method.

The on-chain poll follows this approach, and indeed builds on the mechanism proposed by the Foundation in CIP-0094. The poll will ask SPOs for their stake-weighted opinion on potential changes to parameters and values, giving the Foundation valuable insights into what the community needs as well as its preferences. It likewise applies action 7 of the governance actions detailed in CIP-1694.

When the complete implementation of Voltaire happens, polls will be put to the consideration of delegated representatives (DReps), who will have an influence proportional to the amount of support they receive through delegation. Binding votes will also complement the polls, allowing the Cardano community to make important decisions on various proposals. The Foundation’s on-chain poll for SPOs aims to take a step in this direction, testing the system and ensuring it is calibrated for forming robust proposals.

To account for the novelty of the process, an initial test run in the PreProd Testnet will take place during the first two weeks of May. The testnet phase will help improve the processes and tools, after which period we will move to a mainnet poll scheduled for the second half of May. Before the testnet phase, and again before the mainnet one, the Cardano Foundation will invite the SPOs to dedicated workshops explaining how they can participate in the polls.

The results of this on-chain poll will go back to IOG, EMURGO, and the Cardano Foundation itself in the form of a recommendation. Setting the experiment like this allows not just to explore a new way of surveying a public opinion, but also to do so on-chain, with complete transparency and entirely verified ballots, while still keeping the experiment within a safe environment.

Once the poll has ended, the Foundation will then carefully evaluate the level of participation as well as the stake weights, with the latter playing an especially critical role. The on-chain nature of the poll will guarantee full transparency, so that stake delegators can see the votes casted by SPOs. Since two epochs will separate the moment in which SPOs vote from the effective stake snapshot, stake delegators will have the opportunity to remove their support and redelegate to a stake pool better aligned with their views, thus effectively influencing the direction of a future voting round.

This model of on-chain polls can increase the resilience of the governance mechanism, while also implementing an additional layer of decentralization that ensures the Cardano ecosystem is truly consensus based.

As the path to Voltaire progresses along, the Cardano Foundation wishes to showcase the benefits of blockchain for effective governance. The on-chain poll for SPOs serves as a crucial step, anticipating the implementation of CIP-1694 and helping us maximize the value of on-chain polls and surveys to best serve the Cardano ecosystem. We hope this experiment will give the Cardano community a chance to explore the thrilling potential of on-chain surveys and encourage any SPO interested in participating in this initiative to subscribe for updates.

Read here Blog Post II: Entering Voltaire: poll experiment live on mainnet


Love the idea of polling stake pool operators on opinions about parameters. It requires a public stance to be taken which can be verified on-chain.

One issue I can see is to do with the interpretation of the results in relation to relative voting power.

Reasonable assumptions about SPOs

  1. SPOs are likely to be more “tech savvy”.
  2. SPOs are likely to be more vocal and more engaged in the community.
  3. SPOs are more likely to understand the effects of parameter changes such as minPoolFee, a0 (pledge leverage), etc.
  4. SPOs are more likely to participate in voting, especially since voting requires using the cardano-cli and manually submitting a transaction. (Not many regular users would do this.)
  5. SPOs, like most people will vote their pocketbook.

Reasonable assumptions about delegators

  1. They are “sticky” and unlikely to change their delegation unless forced to do so, or something tragic happens.
  2. They are generally less aware and engaged in the community and less “tech savvy”, compared with SPOs.
  3. Many follow the SPOs for guidance via youtube etc. and so may receive a biased spin.

With these reasonable assumptions in mind, I have concerns over how much voting power some stake pools will have relative to others. If total controlled stake is used as voting power then many SPOs will have outsized influence which has not arisen solely from their own buy-in or commitment, but rather has been generated on the backs of their delegators. And, as stated above, these delegators tend to be sticky, and less aware of the financial / technical significance of protocol changes.

On the other hand, delegators do have the ability to punish SPOs if they believe they voted badly by shifting their stake to other pools. I just believe that most won’t even know or care.

Consequently, I am not sure what the relative balance between pledge vs total stake should be to determine voting power.

I actually think that the best way to vote on controversial parameters like minPoolFee and pledge leverage is to ask the entire community to vote. Then, disinterested, “sticky”, delegators, would be less likely to vote. Thus, highly leveraged SPOs would not receive this free extra vote weighting benefit. But, that would involve waiting for Voltaire.

Maybe it is enough to just publish final vote results as follows:

  • Pledge vote
  • Delegated stake vote (Ada that controlling SPOs voted which was not theirs)
  • Total stake vote

Breaking it down that way, might give the community even more insight into how various SPOs are thinking?


Positive development. There may be benefit in SPOs sharing their values/principles for delegators so there is transparency on how they will vote. For example

  • [SPO] voting record will be available on chain with voting intention and rationale published on [website] prior to votes
  • [SPO] will vote to maximise long term ADA value, even if this is at the expense of short or medium term gains
  • [SPO] will vote for all protocol upgrades unless there is clear evidence that the upgrade may be detrimental to delegators
  • [SPO] will vote for decentralisation changes unless there is clear evidence the change will be detrimental to delegators
  • [SPO] will support changes that improve the ability of the ecosystem to support law abiding activities across global jurisdictions

I wish it was that simple.

If we take the minPoolFee as an example. Both sides of the debate will argue that they are acting in the best interests of decentralisation:

The incumbents, that have managed to corral more than 10Million stake, will argue that the minFee shouldn’t be lowered because it will result in a “race to the bottom”. They say this will make their pools unprofitable leaving only the mega multi-pools like Binance - which would be bad for decentralisation.

Many small single pool operators will argue that the minFee is an artificial barrier to compete because it punishes stakers, with less rewards, for staking with them until they have accrued at least 10Million stake. This means that there is no meaningful way a start-up pool can grow to compete with the incumbents. They can only grow iteratively once they get past the 10Million stake hurdle. On the other hand, incumbents can easily split their pools when needed, earn an extra minFee bonus, and continue to grow their total accrued stake - which would be bad for decentralisation.

Unfortunately the debate is not so easy and I fear that most ordinary users are just not interested enough.


Thanks for all the input, already at this very early stage of the poll. (we didn’t even start the PreProd test-run)

So as a first feedback:
please understand this whole survey as a “creative hands-on iteration in Voltaire” and not as the super-critical “dead-or-alive” event where some parameters are set up or down.

We have deliberately not thrown in too many elements so that there is a good chance to take away learning effects. And perhaps it also reveals that certain things are seen overly hot and complicated.


Hey, following the Inaugural SPO Poll Workshop I’ve got the following question.
I’d like CardanoBI to track voting in preprod/mainnet and expose the voting via API.
Where can I find the “technical” details of the voting (i.e. contract address etc…) to build the necessary backend API to support the above in both preprod & mainnet?

1 Like

In CIP-0094: https://github.com/cardano-foundation/CIPs/pull/496


The Cardano Foundation’s recent initiative to progress towards the age of Voltaire through an on-chain poll for stake pool operators (SPOs) signifies a substantial advancement in creating a genuinely decentralized, self-sustaining network. This endeavor, inspired by the principles of the Enlightenment era, fosters democratic governance while maintaining checks and balances within the Cardano ecosystem.

I really appreciate the value of incorporating diverse opinions and concerns into the decision-making processes. The on-chain poll experiment allows SPOs to express their views on potential adjustments to network parameters and values, offering the Foundation indispensable insights and promoting open discourse. By integrating various perspectives, the Cardano ecosystem will develop increased resilience and stability.

The outcomes of the poll will be publicly accessible, empowering stake delegators to make well-informed choices about supporting particular SPOs. This added layer of decentralization not only enhances the governance mechanism but also ensures a consensus-driven ecosystem.

As we approach the complete realization of Voltaire, the Cardano Foundation’s efforts in conducting on-chain polls and surveys exemplify the potential of blockchain technology for efficient governance. By providing SPOs the opportunity to participate in the decision-making process, the Cardano community can delve into the thrilling possibilities of on-chain polls, furthering the vision of a truly decentralized and democratic ecosystem. This commendable initiative serves as a crucial step in actualizing the promise of the age of Voltaire and shaping Cardano’s future.


SPO poll on PreProd Testnet - Everything the SPO needs to know

Ballot cast Epoch: 67 (Monday 01 May … Friday 5 May 2023 11:59pm)
Redelegation Epoch: 68 (Friday 5 May … Wednesday 10 May 2023 11:59pm)


The technical description of the Poll process and metadata format can be found here:

The Poll Transaction signed by Cardano Foundation’s Genesis key was published earlier today at

Instructions for Stake Pool Operators, including all information on how to participate, are available on


The guide doesn’t state whether the transaction submitted needs to go to a specific address, or whether it can just be sent back to the originating wallet.

Presumably it can be sent from the wallet used to register the pool and go back to the same wallet, and the voting evidence (txn metadata) collected using a query via BlockFrost or similar?

I wish it was that simple

I would contend it is that simple. The SPO states their view on whether a specific change is beneficial, and delegators either accept it or not. It doesn’t have to be agreed across all SPOs, we just have to trust that delegators will make good decisions overall and move stake accordingly.

Like any democracy we can expect the degree of engagement and knowledge will vary among delegators and SPOs. And that’s ok as long as the system corrects over time and is stable.

We can also see from democracies that voters don’t like voting too often, and tend to like to delegate to an executive for 4-5 years at a time. We may find the same is true.

1 Like

we will try to explain this better in the guide.

Other improvements are in progress anyway. We just added an alternative build script based on the 1.35 codebase, for those who ran intol build errors with the 8.0.0-untested tag.


SPIDR voted on preprod. Let’s just hope I did it correctly. :slight_smile:



you can see the preprod “Satisfaction” poll casts now at



Nicely done!

Keep getting this error :
Aeson exception: key “ConwayGenesisFile” not found

Using docker image from the inputoutput/cardano-node:8.0.0-untested

Anyone experienced this? Any alternate docker image?


Hi @BeehiveStakingPool !

How you managed to spin up docker image? I tried to run it as I usually I do(GitHub - os11k/relay: docker-compose files for running Cardano node relay in preprod) and it just crashes all the time and no output to docker logs.

Thank you!

Hey, @os11k,

the dockerfile in your repo is pulling version 1.35.3
“FROM inputoutput/cardano-node:1.35.3”

the poll requires version 8.0.0.

You need to either build version 8.0.0 or pull the inputoutput/cardano-node:8.0.0-untested docker image which is resulting in that error :
Aeson exception: key “ConwayGenesisFile” not found


Yes, that is an example, where you need to update docker file with appropriate docker image(in our case inputoutput/cardano-node:8.0.0-untested). In any case seems I misread what you wrote, I thought you was able to spin it up and just voting didn’t work for you. But seems you was not able to run it too…


Ah! gotcha!
I was able to docker -it into the container.
cardano-node --version gives :
cardano-node 8.0.0 - linux-x86_64 - ghc-8.10
git rev 0000000000000000000000000000000000000000

the script actually starts… but obviously won’t sign the tx cause the node isn’t running.