Referendum for Changing Council Terms

Background

Included on the ballot in the 2021 City of Morgantown Municipal Election is a referendum on changing the terms of office for council members. 

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. 

The referendum will ask voters if they are in favor of changing city council terms from 2-year concurrent terms to 4-year staggered terms. Some of the benefits of a staggered four-year term are that it promotes stability, is consistent with West Virginia’s larger cities, and elections are still held every two years, sometimes electing a majority of city council.

Process to Change Council Terms

Council terms are set by the City Charter. City council adopted an ordinance in 2020 stating the proposed change in terms and will hold a vote on the proposal at the next municipal election in April of 2021.  

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