Statement on Boston City Council Four Year Terms

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Statement by Pam Wilmot, Executive Director of Common Cause Massachusetts, on Boston City Council Four Year Terms

City Council President Michelle Wu got it right by opposing a plan to increase the terms of Boston City Councilors to four years from the current two. Longer terms further increase the power of incumbency and decrease political turnover.

Elections are the hallmark of democracy. While they can be messy, difficult, and trying for those who have to run campaigns, they are the best opportunity for citizens to hold government accountable. Two years may go by quickly, but four is just too long. It simply makes no sense for a Boston City Councilor to hold office for four years while state legislators and Members of Congress are elected for two. For offices that are supposed to represent the people, regular elections at short intervals ensure that politicians talk to voters consistently and can be held accountable to them. In fact, until about 100 years ago, Massachusetts state officials were elected yearly, including for statewide positions.

Low voter turnout in council elections is a problem, but there are more direct ways to solve that issue, such as shifting city elections to even years to be held concurrently with state elections.