May 8, 2024 - News

Raleigh changes term length for City Council members

RALEIGH, NC - NOVEMBER 08: Signs are seen outside a polling place on November 8, 2022 in Raleigh, North Carolina, United States. After months of candidates campaigning, Americans are voting in the midterm elections to decide close races across the nation. (Photo by Allison Joyce/Getty Images)

Election signs seen outside a polling place in 2022 in Raleigh. Photo: Allison Joyce/Getty Images

The Raleigh City Council will move to four-year terms and staggered elections starting in 2026, the council decided in a vote this week.

Why it matters: The council had debated this potential move for years. One of the biggest reasons for switching from two-year terms to four: A desire for more continuity in city government.

What they're saying: "I think in terms of the governance complexities of managing a city of 500,000 people, it's really important to have some continuity," Raleigh council member Jane Harrison said before the vote.

  • "When we look at ordinances that have to go from city council authorization to drafting to review by the planning commission to adoption ... the process that anything takes is a long period of time," she added.

Driving the news: The council had considered putting the change up to a ballot referendum in the fall, but decided to forego a referendum during its Tuesday vote.

  • The decision to move to four-year terms passed 5-2, with members Mary Black and Megan Patton voting against it only because they preferred it go to a referendum.
  • Members also declined to vote on adding three more seats to the City Council.

Zoom out: Many cities throughout the state give their councilmembers four-year, staggered terms, including Durham — though its mayor still only serves two-year terms.

What's next: The decision could still end up as a referendum on 2024 ballots if Raleigh residents collect 5,000 signatures within 30 days of the change.

  • A survey of Raleigh residents last year found that 40% supported four-year terms, while 50% did not.

The four-year terms would start in 2026, with elections then staggered by two groups of council seats.

  • Group 1 — which would include the mayor, the at-large seat receiving the most votes, and districts A and B — would begin four-year terms in 2026.
  • Group 2 — the at-large seat with the second-most votes and districts C, D and E — would begin a two-year term in 2026 and then run again in 2028.
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