When you vote for a Governance referendum, your tokens are locked at least while the referendum is up for vote. Once the referendum ends, the lock may expire or it may remain for a longer period, depending on your conviction and whether you voted with the winning side or not.

But regardless of the lock period, the lock will expire eventually and once that happens you need to manually remove it to make the locked balance transferable again. The lock isn't removed automatically. In this article, you'll learn how to remove these expired democracy or referendum locks.

After the on-chain governance was upgraded to Polkadot OpenGov, the new type of Polkadot OpenGov referenda now exists alongside the previous "Gov1" system. While both systems utilize the concept of locking, there are slight differences in how they are unlocked. This article will instruct both Ledger and non-Ledger users to remove expired Democracy locks in Gov1. 

To learn how to remove expired Referenda locks in Polkadot OpenGov, please check this article.



Locks don't stack. This means that an account can have many different locks on it and the largest one determines the total locked balance.

For example, if you have 200 DOT locked because of staking and 100 DOT locked because of democracy, you will have a locked balance of 200 DOT, not 300 DOT. If you then remove the expired democracy lock, you'll still have 200 DOT locked, because of the staking lock.

On the other hand, if you have 100 DOT locked for staking and 200 DOT locked for democracy, when you remove the democracy lock, you'll get 100 DOT as transferable balance and the rest 100 DOT will remain locked due to staking.


If you voted on referenda submited on the Gov1 system, click on the arrow icon on the far right of your account and then hover over the little clock icon next to the democracy locked balance you can see if there are any locks that have expired:


The previous version of Gov1 on Kusama has been deprecated, resulting in the temporary inability to unlock KSM on the current runtime version.

A fix is under development and it should be deployed on the next Kusama runtime upgrade.

Non-Ledger accounts

To remove an expired democracy lock from a non-Ledger account, follow these steps:

1. Click on the three dots on the right side of your account.

2. Select "Clear expired democracy locks":

3. Then simply sign and submit the extrinsic and all the expired locks will be removed.

Ledger accounts

Clearing an expired democracy lock through the UI is a batch call that the Ledger apps do not support. So, the two calls need to be issued separately for Ledger accounts. To do that, follow these steps:

1. Go to the "Developer" > "Extrinsics" page on Polkadot-JS UI.

2. Select your Ledger account.

3. On the left drop-down menu select 'democracy' and on the right select 'removeVote'. Then enter the referendum index. In the example screenshot above, the index of each referendum is shown next to the expired locks.

4. Then submit the transaction.

5. Then you need to submit the second extrinsic. From the right drop-down menu select "unlock(target)" and choose your account from the drop-down menu that appears below. Then submit the transaction.

If you have more than one expired lock, you need to repeat this process for each one you want to remove.

If you participated in a Gov1 referendum and you want to remove those democracy locks, you can follow the live indications by Filippo in Polkadot Technical Explainers. Go to the mark 05:10 on the video below: