Options for Changing Council Terms and Election Dates

Background

Morgantown City Council is considering whether to hold a referendum on changing the terms of office for council members and they are asking for your input. 

Currently, the entire City Council is elected every two years. Other West Virginia cities similar to Morgantown have four-year terms for council members. 

The reason that council is exploring making a change is that executives in public administration have suggested that longer terms promote stable policy and efficient management of public staff and resources and better handling of long-term and complex problems. Alternately, two-year terms provide voters more regular opportunities to directly vote on representatives. 

What options are being discussed?

City Council would like public input on the following options for terms of office and election dates:

  1. 4-year staggered terms:
    • Promotes stability.
    • Consistent with West Virginia’s larger cities.
    • Elections every two years, sometimes electing a majority of City Council.
  2. 4-year concurrent terms:
    • Promotes stability, but less than staggered terms. 
    • Elections every four years.
    • Entire City Council selected at each election.
  3. 3-year staggered terms:
    • Promotes stability.
    • Elections every year, each selecting a minority of City Council.
  4. 2-year concurrent terms:
    • More options to change policy, but less stability.
    • Elections every two years.
    • Entire City Council selected at each election.

Election dates

City Council elections are currently held in April of every odd-numbered year.  City Council is also seeking input on whether voters would prefer a change in the election date.  The April elections are set by the City Charter.  They provide an election that is only for Morgantown City Council.  No other elections occur on the same date, and all residents including students and faculty of the university are in town during the election. Many cities hold their elections in June (the default for city elections under state law), and some hold elections with the May primary elections or November general elections.  

How Can I Provide My Opinion?

Please let us know which option you prefer, or if you feel that there should be no change at all. If you would like to provide input, please call or email your city council member, submit written comments to the City Clerk or sign up to speak at the June 30 Committee of the Whole meeting.

Process to Change Council Terms

Council terms are set by the City Charter. City Council may adopt an ordinance stating the proposed change in terms (and election date, if preferred) and hold a vote on the proposal at the next City Council election in April of 2021.  

The City Council could alternately hold a special election on the proposed change if two-thirds of Council members vote to hold a special election and set a date for the election 30 to 60 days after adoption of the ordinance. The vote could only be held as part of the November general election administered by the County if the County agrees ahead of time to include it on the ballot. Otherwise, a special election would require the City to provide polling places and election workers.

Summary of Council Member Terms – Other West Virginia Cities 

  1. Beckley        4-year terms; concurrent.                   Elected 2nd Tuesday in May        
  2. Bluefield       4-year terms; staggered 3/2               Elected 1st Tuesday in June
  3. Bridgeport    4-year terms; staggered 3/2               Elected 2nd Tuesday in June
  4. Charleston   4-year terms; concurrent (20 wards)  Elected 1st Tuesday in November*†
  5. Clarksburg   4-year terms; staggered 4/3               Elected 1st Tuesday in June
  6. Fairmont      4-year terms; staggered 5/4               Elected 1st Tuesday in November*
  7. Huntington   4-year terms; concurrent                    Elected 1st Tuesday in November*†
  8. Martinsburg  4-year terms; concurrent                   Elected 2nd Tuesday in June
  9. Parkersburg 4-year terms; concurrent                    Elected 2nd Tuesday in November*†
  10. Wheeling      4-year terms; concurrent                   Elected 2nd Tuesday in May

*Election date is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November.
†Partisan elections with preceding Primary elections and/or nominations by political parties