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Municipal officials get one year added to current terms
By Christa Jennings
Elected officials in all three of Coosa County’s municipalities, and many others throughout the state, will have an extra year to serve, with their 4-year terms now becoming 5-year terms.
The move that causes most municipalities in the state to get an extra year added to their current terms comes about because of a new state act. This act moves municipal elections off of the same year as presidential and county elections beginning in 2025.
This means mayors and council members who were elected in 2020 will not run for office in 2024 as originally expected. The new act automatically extends their term of office for one time only, from four years to five years, in order to properly stagger the elections and terms of office.
State Bill 119, which makes additional changes to municipal election laws, was passed by the Alabama Legislature in March, becoming Act 2021-157. Gov. Kay Ivey proceeded to sign the bill into law.
According to the Alabama League of Municipalities, 97% of all Alabama municipalities will be affected by this change, or essentially all of the municipalities which had elections last year. This includes Goodwater, Kellyton and Rockford in Coosa County.
Per the new act, “The regular municipal elections in cities and towns shall be held on the fourth Tuesday in August 2025, and quadrennially thereafter, and, when necessary as provided in subsection (d) of Section 11-46-55, a second or runoff election shall be held on the fourth Tuesday following the regular election.”
Elected municipal officers will continue to take office the first Monday in November following the municipal elections.
With the 5-year term to push the municipal elections to another election schedule only taking place once, the municipal offices will then resume involving 4-year terms starting with the 2025 elections and onward.
Coosa County Judge of Probate Richard Dean explained that these changes bring municipal elections in line with the timeframes of other elections “by changing the runoff elections from six to four weeks following the general election.”
Additionally, he said it also changes some of the responsibilities, such as ballot printing, from the mayors to the city or town clerks who “were more than likely” already performing those duties.
One reported benefit of the change is that it allows constituents to give more attention to the municipal election process, the candidates who participate in them and the issues involved.
Additionally, qualifying for municipal elections was taking place during the first two weeks of July, with the elections held in August. This meant that there was only a 4- to 6-week turnaround time between when they would qualify and when they would run for office, making it a narrow window.
However, the new law also changes that to allow for qualifying to start in June instead of July in 2025. This allows more time to follow the process, confirm information and get ballots printed in time for the elections.
“By changing the years of the municipal elections from even-numbered to odd-numbered years, the new law eliminates the problems now faced with having the municipal elections occurring in the same years and often overlapping with other county and/or state elections,” Judge Dean said.
That issue of having so many elections the same year can cause “voter fatigue,” which was also a primary reason for changing the election schedule for municipal offices.
Another change brought about by the new law is that notification of certified election results will now be sent as extra copies to the Secretary of State’s Office and the League of Municipalities. Previously certified municipal election results were sent to the probate judge only.
The law does include other changes that potential candidates and municipal officials need to be aware of, as well.
“Another huge change that municipal candidates and clerks must be aware of is the ‘requirement to receive confirmation from the Alabama Ethics Commission that a candidate has complied with the ethics filing requirements,’” Dean stated. “My advice to every candidate is to do your homework and know the requirements of candidacy. As I explain to all candidates, it is the candidate’s sole responsibility to understand the qualification requirements for the office being sought, know all the filing requirements and comply with those requirements. The municipal clerk or probate judge cannot do these things for the candidate.”
The League of Municipalities reported that it encountered no real objections from municipalities or legislators, and the proposed bill became law in just 17 legislative days.
The new law will be discussed at the league’s convention next month, with more education on it beginning with normal training for the 2025 elections, which will be as early as 2024.