Penumbra features on-chain governance similar to Cosmos Hub, with the simplification that there are only 3 kinds of vote: yes, no, and abstain.

Quick Start

There’s a lot you can do with the governance system in Penumbra. If you have a particular intention in mind, here are some quick links:

Getting Proposal Information

To see information about the currently active proposals, including your own, use the pcli query proposal subcommand.

To list all the active proposals by their ID, use:

pcli query governance list-proposals

Other proposal query commands all follow the form:

pcli query governance proposal [PROPOSAL_ID] [QUERY]

These are the queries currently defined:

  • definition gets the details of a proposal, as the submitted JSON;
  • state gets information about the current state of a proposal (voting, withdrawn, or finished, along with the reason for withdrawal if any, and the outcome of finished proposals);
  • period gets the voting start and end block heights of a proposal;
  • tally gets the current tally of a proposal’s votes, as a total across all validators, and broken down by each validator’s votes and the total votes of their delegators.

Voting On A Proposal

Validators and delegators may both vote on proposals. Validator votes are public and attributable to that validator; delegator votes are anonymous, revealing only the voting power used in the vote, and the validator which the voting delegator had delegated to. Neither validators nor delegators can change their votes after they have voted.

Voting As A Delegator

If you had staked delegation tokens to one or more active validators when a proposal started, you can vote on it using the tx vote subcommand of pcli. For example, if you wanted to vote “yes” on proposal 1, you would do:

pcli tx vote yes --on 1

When you vote as a delegator (but not when you vote as a validator), you will receive commemorative voted_on_N tokens, where N is the proposal ID, proportionate to the weight of your vote. Think of these as the cryptocurrency equivalent of the “I voted!” stickers you may have received when voting in real life at your polling place.

Voting As A Validator

If you are a validator who was active when the proposal started, you can vote on it using the validator vote cast subcommand of pcli. For example, if you wanted to vote “yes” on proposal 1, you would do:

pcli validator vote cast yes --on 1

If your validator uses an airgap custody setup, you can separately sign and cast your vote using the pcli validator vote sign command to output your signature, and the --signature option on pcli validator vote cast to attach it and broadcast it.

Eligibility And Voting Power

Only validators who were active at the time the proposal started voting may vote on proposals. Only delegators who had staked delegation tokens to active validators at the time the proposal started voting may vote on proposals.

A validator’s voting power is equal to their voting power at the time a proposal started voting, and a delegator’s voting power is equal to the unbonded staking token value (i.e. the value in penumbra) of the delegation tokens they had staked to an active validator at the time the proposal started voting. When a delegator votes, their voting power is subtracted from the voting power of the validator(s) to whom they had staked delegation notes at the time of the proposal start, and their stake-weighted vote is added to the total of the votes: in other words, validators vote on behalf of their delegators, but delegators may override their portion of their validator’s vote.

Authoring A Proposal

Anyone can submit a new governance proposal for voting by escrowing a proposal deposit, which will be held until the end of the proposal’s voting period. Penumbra’s governance system discourages proposal spam with a slashing mechanism: proposals which receive more than a high threshold of no votes have their deposit burned. At present, the slashing threshold is 80%. If the proposal is not slashed (but regardless of whether it passes or fails), the deposit will then be returned to the proposer at the end of voting.

From the proposer’s point of view, the lifecycle of a proposal begins when it is submitted and ends when the deposit is claimed. During the voting period, the proposer may also optionally withdraw the proposal, which prevents it from passing, but does not prevent it from being slashed. This is usually used when a proposal has been superseded by a revised alternative.

In the above, rounded grey boxes are actions submitted by the proposal author, rectangular colored boxes are the state of the proposal on chain, and colored circles are outcomes of voting.

Kinds Of Proposal

There are 4 kinds of governance proposal on Penumbra: signaling, emergency, parameter change, and community pool spend.

Signaling Proposals

Signaling proposals are meant to signal community consensus about something. They do not have a mechanized effect on the chain when passed; they merely indicate that the community agrees about something.

This kind of proposal is often used to agree on code changes; as such, an optional commit field may be included to specify these changes.

Emergency Proposals

Emergency proposals are meant for when immediate action is required to address a crisis, and conclude early as soon as a 1/3 majority of all active voting power votes yes.

Emergency proposals have the power to optionally halt the chain when passed. If this occurs, off-chain coordination between validators will be required to restart the chain.

Parameter Change Proposals

Parameter change proposals alter the chain parameters when they are passed. Chain parameters specify things like the base staking reward rate, the amount of penalty applied when slashing, and other properties that determine how the chain behaves. Many of these can be changed by parameter change proposals, but some cannot, and instead would require a chain halt and upgrade.

A parameter change proposal specifies both the old and the new parameters. If the current set of parameters at the time the proposal passes are an exact match for the old parameters specified in the proposal, the entire set of parameters is immediately set to the new parameters; otherwise, nothing happens. This is to prevent two simultaneous parameter change proposals from overwriting each others’ changes or merging with one another into an undesired state. Almost always, the set of old parameters should be the current parameters at the time the proposal is submitted.

Community Pool Spend Proposals

Community Pool spend proposals submit a transaction plan which may spend funds from the Community Pool if passed.

Community Pool spend transactions have exclusive capability to use two special actions which are not allowed in directly submitted user transactions: CommunityPoolSpend and CommunityPoolOutput. These actions, respectively, spend funds from the Community Pool, and mint funds transparently to an output address (unlike regular output actions, which are shielded). Community Pool spend transactions are unable to use regular shielded outputs, spend funds from any source other than the Community Pool itself, perform swaps, or submit, withdraw, or claim governance proposals.

Submitting A Proposal

To submit a proposal, first generate a proposal template for the kind of proposal you want to submit. For example, suppose we want to create a signaling proposal:

pcli tx proposal template signaling --file proposal.toml

This outputs a TOML template for the proposal to the file proposal.toml, where you can edit the details to match what you’d like to submit. The template will contain relevant default fields for you to fill in, as well as a proposal ID, automatically set to the next proposal ID at the time you generated the template. If someone else submits a proposal before you’re ready to upload yours, you may need to increment this ID, because it must be the sequentially next proposal ID at the time the proposal is submitted to the chain.

Once you’re ready to submit the proposal, you can submit it. Note that you do not have to explicitly specify the proposal deposit in this action; it is determined automatically based on the chain parameters.

pcli tx proposal submit --file proposal.toml

The proposal deposit will be immediately escrowed and the proposal voting period will start in the very next block. As the proposer, you will receive a proposal deposit NFT which can be redeemed for the proposal deposit after voting concludes, provided the proposal is not slashed. This NFT has denomination proposal_N_deposit, where N is the ID of your proposal. Note that whoever holds this NFT has exclusive control of the proposal: they can withdraw it or claim the deposit.

Making A Community Pool Spend Transaction Plan

In order to submit a Community Pool spend proposal, it is necessary to create a transaction plan. At present, the only way to specify this is to provide a rather human-unfriendly JSON-formatted transaction plan, because there is no stable human-readable representation for a transaction plan at present. This will change in the future as better tooling is developed.

For now, here is a template for a transaction plan that withdraws 100 penumbra from the Community Pool and sends it to a specified address (in this case, the address of the author of this document):

  "fee": { "amount": { "lo": 0, "hi": 0 } },
  "actions": [
      "communityPoolSpend": {
        "value": {
          "amount": { "lo": 100000000, "hi": 0 },
          "assetId": { "inner": "KeqcLzNx9qSH5+lcJHBB9KNW+YPrBk5dKzvPMiypahA=" }
      "communityPoolOutput": {
        "value": {
          "amount": { "lo": 100000000, "hi": 0 },
          "assetId": { "inner": "KeqcLzNx9qSH5+lcJHBB9KNW+YPrBk5dKzvPMiypahA=" }
        "address": {
          "inner": "vzZ60xfMPPwewTiSb08jk5OdUjc0BhQ7IXLgHAayJoi5mvmlnTpqFuaPU2hCBhwaEwO2c03tBbN/GVh0+CajAjYBmBq3yHAbzNJCnZS8jUs="

Note that the asset ID and address are specified not in the usual bech32 formats you are used to seeing, but in base64. To get your address in this format, use pcli view address 0 --base64.

To template a Community Pool spend proposal using a JSON transaction plan, use the pcli tx proposal template community-pool-spend --transaction-plan <FILENAME>.json, which will take the transaction plan and include it in the generated proposal template. If no plan is specified, the transaction plan will be the empty transaction which does nothing when executed.

Withdrawing A Proposal

If you want to withdraw a proposal that you have made (perhaps because a better proposal has come to community consensus), you can do so before voting concludes. Note that this does not make you immune to losing your deposit by slashing, as withdrawn proposals can still be voted on and slashed.

pcli tx proposal withdraw 0 \
    --reason "some human-readable reason for withdrawal"

When you withdraw a proposal, you consume your proposal deposit NFT, and produce a new proposal unbonding deposit NFT, which has the denomination proposal_N_unbonding_deposit, where N is the proposal ID. This, like the proposal deposit NFT, can be used to redeem the deposit at the end of voting, provided the proposal is not slashed.

Claiming A Proposal Deposit

Regardless of whether you have or have not withdrawn your proposal, once voting on the proposal concludes, you can claim your proposal deposit using the tx proposal deposit-claim subcommand of pcli. For example, if you wanted to claim the deposit for a concluded proposal number 1, you could say:

pcli tx proposal deposit-claim 1

This will consume your proposal deposit NFT (either the original or the one you received after withdrawing the proposal) and send you back one of three different proposal result NFTs, depending on the result of the vote: proposal_N_passed, proposal_N_failed or proposal_N_slashed. If the proposal was not slashed (that is, it passed or failed), this action will also produce the original proposal deposit. Note that you can claim a slashed proposal: you will receive the slashed proposal result NFT, but you will not receive the original proposal deposit.