Understanding Security Council Elections: A Comprehensive Guide

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Introduction to the Arbitrum DAO Security Council Election

On September 15, 2023, the first Arbitrum DAO Security Council Election will take place! Here, we’ll give you an overview of everything you need to know: what the Security Council is, how the Security Council elections work, and how you can participate.


The DAO-governed Arbitrum chains — like all software — sometimes need to be upgraded. Arbitrum’s governance system provides two ways for the upgrades to take place: via a DAO proposal or via the Security Council.

DAO proposals can be submitted by anyone, are transparent, and are deliberately designed to take weeks to finalize. This time allows Arbitrum delegates to vote on the proposal and ensures that, if the proposal passes, Arbitrum users will still have an opportunity to “opt out” of it by withdrawing their funds before it takes effect.

Some upgrades, however, need to happen quickly — namely, upgrades that fix a critical bug discovered in the system. For this class of upgrades, quick effectuation is necessary to ensure no attacker can exploit the vulnerability once it is public. These fast-upgrades can be carried out by the Security Council.

The Security Council consists of 12 members, any 9 of whose signatures are required to authorize an emergency upgrade. The initial Security Council members (i.e., the members prior to the first election on 9/15/23) can be seen here.

As of this writing, all upgrades have been carried out via the DAO proposal path; no emergency upgrades have been necessary. However, given the known-unknown risk of undiscovered bugs, having an emergency upgrade contingency plan remains vital. The Security Council is trusted to only ever use its ability to recover from emergencies; however, technically speaking, the Security Council could upgrade the system arbitrarily. Thus, it is important that the DAO places great importance and deliberation in electing reputable and trustworthy individuals and/or entities to the Security Council.

Security Council Election: Overview

Security Council elections are a way for the DAO to periodically elect new members (and/or explicitly re-elect members) of the Security Council, ensuring that members remain aligned with the values and best interests of the DAO.

In brief: the 12 members of the Security Council are split into two groups of six, called “cohorts.” Every 6 months, the six seats in one of the cohorts are all up for election, with the target cohort alternating each election cycle. During an election, any party can submit themselves as a candidate in the election. During the election process, the DAO votes on candidates such that ultimately the top 6 are chosen; after a brief grace period, these 6 candidates replace the 6 candidates in the current cohort, finishing the election.

Security Council Election: In Detail

The following is a more detailed overview of the different phases of a Security Council Election:

Phase 1: Nominee Selection (First Voting Phase): 7 Days

During this phase, any party can submit themselves to become a “contender” so long as they are not already a member of the other cohort (the cohort not currently up for election). Also during this phase, delegates can cast votes for contenders. Delegates can split their votes across as many contenders as they please; i.e., if Steve has a total of 1000 delegated votes, he can cast 300 votes for Alice and 700 votes for Bob.

Any contender that receives votes representing 0.2% of all voteable tokens advances to the next phase.

Phase 3: Member Selection (Second Voting Phase): 21 Days Total

During this phase, delegates’ voting power is “reset” from phase 1; delegates vote on nominees until 6 are selected as members of the new cohort.

The member selection phase is comprised of two sub-phases: full-weight voting and decreasing weight voting.

3a. Full Weight Voting (7 Days)

During this sub-phase, delegates vote with the full weight of the votes delegated to them.

3b. Decreasing Weight Voting (14 Days)

During this sub-phase, delegates’ voting power decreases linearly; i.e., at the beginning of the sub-phase they can vote with 100% of their voting weight, and by the end their votes have 0 weight.

As with phase 1, delegates can split their votes across multiple candidates.

For example: Steve — who, recall, used all 1000 of his votes in phase 1, now, during the full weight voting phase, has 1000 votes once again. Say he casts 600 votes for Bob and 100 for Christine, leaving him with 300 votes left.

Then, he waits until he is 7 days into the decreasing weight voting phase before voting again. At this point he casts all of his votes for Daniel; since he is 50% of the way through this phase, his voting power is decreased by 50%, so Daniel gets 150 votes, and Steve has no more votes to cast.

At the end of the Member selection phase, the six nominees with the most votes are the winners, and are set to become members of the Security Council.

Phase 4: Grace Period (13 Days)

This period is simply a delay period after the new members have been officially elected and before they actually become members of the Security Council. This delay period allows Arbitrum users to withdraw their funds if they so choose before the new council members are put into place (as per the constitution), and is also required so that the election results can propagate to the Security Council contracts across all relevant chains.

How To Participate

The election process is carried on via on-chain smart contracts which can be accessed through the Tally interface here; discussion around elections is encouraged on the governance forums.

Here are ways to get involved:

Potential Contenders

  • Review the compliance requirements, risks, and responsibilities involved. For more info, see here.
  • Campaign for yourself and engage with the community by posting on the governance forum.


  • Vote during the nominee selection and member selection phases (phases 1 and 3 above).
  • Consider the decreasing weight mechanism (3b above) to optimize your voting strategy.

Community Members

  • Participate in elections via public platforms like the governance forum.
  • Weigh in on who they think would be strong candidates for security council membership.