The Boston City Council today approved a package of election-related changes that would include increasing council terms from two to four years starting with the 2021 election.
The council also voted to allow early voting for municipal elections and to bar candidates from running for more than one local office at a time.
All three measures need approval of Mayor Walsh, the state legislature and Gov. Baker to become law.
The council tabled a fourth measure, to change the way at-large council vacancies are filled. Currently, the person who finished fifth in the previous election automatically becomes an at-large councilor should one of them four at-large councilors resign or die; a proposal would have required a special election.
Proponents of longer council terms, who included Council President Andrea Campbell, said city business has become complex enough that councilors really need four years to try to fulfill their campaign promises. Also, the elimination of every-other-year elections would save money, they said.
Councilor Matt O'Malley (Jamaica Plain, West Roxbury) predicted longer terms would mean an increase in public participation - and the number of candidates - by eliminating the off-year elections, which traditionally draw little participation.
Councilors voted 11-2 for the measure. Councilors Michelle Wu (at large) and Josh Zakim (Beacon Hill, Back Bay, Fenway, Mission Hill) cast the dissenting votes.
Wu said the measure would cut in half the number of opportunities for people to challenge sitting councilors, which she said would be a mistake for a body that is supposed to be so accountable to voters. Zakim said councilors deserve vigorous challenges when they make mistakes or move in directions their voters might not agree with. He also dismissed the cost issue, saying that while saving money is good, it shouldn't come at the expense of giving voters a choice.
Both Zakim and Councilor Lydia Edwards (East Boston, North End, Charlestown) said the council should look at "ranked choice voting," which Cambridge has long used and which would let voters rank candidates by preference in multi-candidate races.
Edwards said this could be a way to deal with the at-large issue, should that come up - instead of using first-past-the-gate voting, elections officials would consider the total number of seats to win a seat, then look at voter choices: Any candidate who got enough first-place votes would get a seat, but if not all did, voters' second, third and fourth-place votes would come into play.
However, Councilor Frank Baker (Dorchester), said he would oppose any measure that would have changed the way Althea Garrison got on the council in January - by coming in fifth in 2017 and replacing Ayanna Pressley on her move to Washington. Baker said he could not support something that would be "a vote against my colleague, Althea Garrison."