Proposal to Introduce the Right to Actively Abstain in NNS and SNS Governance Systems


This proposal emphasizes the inclusion of an active abstention option within the governance structures of NNS and SNS. The objective is to ensure a complete representation of stakeholder sentiments and to equitably reward all participants, irrespective of their voting choice.


Presently, participants in the voting framework have only two options: ‘yes’ or ‘no’. The reward mechanism mandates a choice between these binary options to avail related rewards.

Rationale for Active Abstention

Holistic Representation: Incorporating the right to actively abstain ensures all community sentiments are represented without bias.

Fair Reward Distribution: Making rewards available not just for ‘yes’ or ‘no’ votes, but also for abstentions ensures equitable distribution among the community.

Transparent Governance: Capturing abstentions offers a clearer insight into stakeholder sentiments, preventing decision skewness based on polar choices.


To include the active abstention option:

  1. Technical Integration: Update the voting interface to feature an ‘Abstain’ option alongside ‘Yes’ and ‘No’. Ensure abstentions are appropriately recorded and factored into the reward mechanism.

  2. Reward Mechanism Revision: Adjust the reward system to acknowledge and reward abstaining voters in line with those opting for ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

  3. Educational Outreach: Inform the community about this option and its significance, particularly emphasizing its role in ensuring inclusive reward distribution.

Appeal to DFINITY

Given that DFINITY is the principal genesis and current operating team of the network, the implementation of this feature is largely contingent on their involvement. We kindly urge DFINITY to assist in the realization of this feature if the proposal is ratified post-voting. However, if DFINITY is preoccupied with other commitments or doesn’t align with the perspective presented in this proposal, we respectfully ask them to cast a ‘no’ vote, ensuring a transparent deliberation within the community.


By incorporating an active abstention option in the governance mechanisms of NNS and SNS, we foresee a decision-making process that’s more inclusive and equitable, truly resonating with the core tenets of community-driven governance.


I strongly agree with this, it’s been needed!

For example, we’ve seen neurons like ICDevs forced to vote no over valid legal concerns. If they could abstain it would be a more accurate representation of their stance. They are still strong and active contributors to the protocol who deserve maturity.

We all hope to see DFINITY able to sustain operations long term through their neuron maturity. In that context there may be situations where the foundation doesn’t want to take sides or must also abstain over legal concerns. That shouldn’t get in the way of the maturity gains they deserve.

Also, most known neurons are expected to always vote no matter what. They shouldn’t be incentivized or pressured to voting out of ignorance. The amount of voting power following them makes it impossible not to participate, but they might not be qualified to have a strong stance on every topic.


This could be an interesting addition that we would most likely use in the draggins. For us the alternative would be to split the amount we want to use from the founders locked dkp 50% yes and 50% no. That would be the only other way dragginz could earn funds to cover cycles and other costs without influencing the community vote.

I realise this is an exceptional use case though. Maybe if you abstain you get a reduced reward to encourage people to make a meaningful decision if they can?


What do you see happening in case of majority actively abstaining on a proposal and Dfinity abstaining as in many cases they do ? This is not a valid option, a vote should be rewarded in case of yes or no. Just acknowledging that there is a proposal should not get rewarded since this could lead to chaos. Just my 2 cent on this.

Not sure in this case anyone would use that and would be lot of work for nothing. IMO
That said I can see how this would be beneficial to use in a game where not everything is yes or no.

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Why not just abstain ? Did they really needed the reward for that specific proposal ? Just asking to understand the use case better, if any.

I think there are times when quantifying the number of abstain votes is useful. For example, many of these proposals make their way through the forum and its up to the proposal author to decide when to move to the NNS. Sometimes the author can be a bit hasty and try to move things along before people have had all their questions answered.

Some of these proposals were rejected with a near 50/50 split. For the sake of this discussion I’ll just assume 15-20% of the “reject” votes would have abstained if given a choice. They may have done so because they weren’t ready, or didn’t have enough information, to make a decision. So they err on the side of caution.

If we provided an abstain option I think it would allow stakeholders to signal when they believe a proposal has merit but needs to be fleshed out a bit more or discussed further. Right now I believe limiting the choice to “adopt” or “reject” takes a bit of power away from the stakeholders; allows proposers to force the community’s hand one way or another.

Edit: I quoted your response but looking back I didn’t really address your question directly. Given what I stated above; I don’t think someone’s choice to not vote would be interpreted the same way as a conscious decision to abstain.


tl;dr Adding abstain would decouple rewards from voting and be a “simple” solution to stop voter centralization from liquid-staking.

IMO, there are broadly three categories of stakers:

  1. Solo/individual pool stakers

    Ideal stakers. Contribute to decentralization. Some blend of profit & control motives.

  2. Profit-maximalists

    Stakers who’s primary goal is profit. They will stake & vote as a means to an end, but they don’t care about the control aspect more than is absolutely necessary. The less governance work they are forced to do, the better.

  3. Control-maximalists

    Stakers who’s primary goal is power & control over the network. These are the dangerous ones. They might consider attacking the network if they get big enough.


Because rewards are coupled to voting, all the profit-maxis are forced to vote on every proposal. At best it would be somewhat random and uninformed, at worst they could get disgruntled and start to vote maliciously. But in most cases they would likely follow another neuron increasing voter centralization.

Aside: There was an interesting post on proposing (basically) forcing validators to choose between accruing rewards (profit) or accruing voting weight (control). This has the nice effect of making control attacks more expensive as you would have to directly forgo rewards. This has some nice properties, but is much more complicated than “adding abstain”.

Adding abstain doesn’t serve to increase the cost of a control-attack like forcing a choice between control/profit does, but… Adding abstain is a much simpler concept and implementation.

Adding abstain would solve liquid-staking causing voter centralization. Currently, to maximize rewards StakedICP must vote on every proposal, but in practice this means following which (if it grows) would cause voter centralization. There are other workarounds (follow x top neurons, etc), but if there was an abstain vote, StakedICP would happily abstain from every vote to avoid exerting undue voting weight.