Not all cities hold elections for city council on the same date each year. City charters and state election laws govern the dates of city council elections in most states. Most cities have the authority to request special elections when needed, if the charter contains such a provision.
Many cities stagger the election of city council members among odd and even years to minimize disruption of city government and council functions. Many cities have begun coordinating election dates for city council members with the elections of state and federal elections. This saves the city the time and expense of having to set up polling places, arrange for workers, set up machines and tabulate results more than once per year.
Studies also show that voter turnout increases in years in which state and federal offices are up for election. For most cities, this means that the elections take place on the first Tuesday in November; however, in Baltimore, for example, 2016 city elections are planned to take place on April 6 to coincide with the state’s presidential primary elections.