Why Raleigh voters won’t decide whether to extend City Council terms this fall

A petition to let voters decide whether to extend the terms of the Raleigh City Council has failed.

Thursday was the deadline for the petition, organized by Livable Raleigh and several announced council candidates, to collect enough signatures to put the question of longer term before voters this fall.

“Although we were not successful in getting the required 5,000 signatures for the petition to put a referendum on the November 2024 ballot for City Council term lengths, we were successful in creating city-wide awareness of the issue,” said Tim Niles, a founding member of Livable Raleigh.

Why did organizers start a petition? In May, the council voted to move from two-year to four-year, staggered terms starting in 2026 and to change its election method to a nonpartisan primary, in which the top vote getters for each seat face each other in the general election.

The council could have chosen to ask voters the question this fall but opted instead to make the decision itself.

How many signatures did they collect? The petition had 2,793 signatures as of Thursday afternoon, with 2,562 considered valid.

“We were hampered by the short time period of 30 days allotted to gather the signatures and the long Memorial Day weekend holiday which occurred right in the middle of the effort, leaving most people difficult to find at home while canvassing door to door,” Niles said.

Was there a previous election petition? Livable Raleigh previously organized a petition to recall Mayor Mary-Ann Baldwin. It needed 14,000 signatures to put the measure to voters.

That petition began after the City Council voted in a closed session to ask state lawmakers to move its elections to even-numbered years, permanently, and change the method of elections. That endeavor did eventually pass, giving the elected officials serving at that time an additional year in office.

Expanding the board

City leaders also recently rejected expanding the eight-person council, including the mayor, by adding three district seats.

This led Livable Raleigh to launch a separate petition to put that idea to voters. It also needs 5,000 signatures from voters. The deadline for that petition is May 14, 2025, and it had 1,513 verified signatures as of Thursday afternoon.

While they have several months to finish the petition, they would need to get the required number of signatures by July 2 to meet the Board of Elections deadline for any ballot changes this fall, Niles said. Meeting the 2025 deadline could put it on a later ballot.

“We have not made a decision yet as to whether we will keep collecting signatures on that petition,” he said.