Boston's City Council is moving to extend Council terms from two years to four.
The Council voted 11-2 on Wednesday to approve a home rule petition. The bill must be approved by the state legislature to become law.
The Council also approved a home rule petition that would establish early voting for municipal elections in Boston. A third election-related bill recently introduced, that would have required special election when a Council seat is vacated mid-term, was not brought up for a vote.
Council President Andrea Campbell, a sponsor of all three measures, has argued that the current two-year election cycle is inefficient and expensive, and that extending the terms to coincide with mayoral elections would save taxpayer dollars.
Speaking in support of the measure Wednesday, City Councilor Matt O'Malley said four-year terms would also make the Council, the city's legislative branch and a check on the mayor's executive authority, stronger as a body.
But two councilors, Josh Zakim and Michelle Wu, voted no.
Wu said four-year terms would discourage political newcomers from running and argued that two-year terms have, in recent years, led to a more diverse Council with more fresh faces on it.
"The makeup of this Council today is because of the opportunity every two years to challenge and to bring new people into the process," Wu said.
"So we would be effectively cutting in half the number of chances that people could challenge" an incumbent, she said.
Wu also argued that longer terms would give incumbents an even bigger fundraising advantage over challengers than they already enjoy. Wu noted that unlike campaign finance limits in the U.S. Congress, political donations in Massachusetts are capped by calendar year, but not by election cycle.
The third bill Campbell recently introduced, mandating special elections for vacant Council seats, was withdrawn from the Council agenda — drawing a mix of grumpy satisfaction and new frustration from Council members.
The Council's four at-large seats are awarded to the four highest vote-getters in that race. Under current law, if a seat is vacated in the middle of a term, it automatically goes to whomever, among unseated candidates, got the next most votes. In Boston's last municipal election, that was perennial candidate Althea Garrison, who became the newest member of the City Council in January, filling the vacated seat of now-Rep. Ayanna Pressley.
Garrison rose to object to this new proposal when it was first introduced, and on Wednesday, Councilor Frank Baker backed Garrison up.
"I think a vote for this is a vote against my colleague, Althea Garrison," Baker said.
Those who spoke in favor of the measure framed it as a way to increase voter participation, even as they voted in support of halving the number of Council elections by doubling terms.
This isn't the first time Council members have tried to extend their own terms: The Council passed a similar measure in 2016, but, like many a Boston home rule petition, it died without action in the state legislature. Wu was the only Council member to vote "no" on that bill.