April 6, 2021 Advisory Referendum on the Size and Shape of Madison’s Common Council


When you vote in the April 6, 2021 Spring Election you will find four advisory referendum questions on the ballot asking about the structure of Madison’s Common Council. The questions ask about:

  • Alderperson pay
  • The size of the Common Council
  • The length of alderperson terms
  • Whether alderpersons should be subject to term limits 

These questions are part of a multi-year City initiative to investigate whether changes to the structure of Madison’s government could improve representation and engagement for all of Madison residents. So far, City efforts to consider answers to these questions have included a comprehensive review of the history of Madison’s government by an eleven-member Task Force on the Structure of City Government, culminating in a Final Report with recommendations to the Mayor and Common Council.

To learn more about these issues and the recommendations made by the Task Force, you may access the Final Report of the Task Force on the Structure of City Government (26mb). Please allow a moment to download.

This referendum is advisory only. It will not bind the City or make any immediate change. Instead, the City will use this information to gauge the voter’s interest in pursuing these possible changes, which would take further action by the Common Council or the voters to implement.

The questions will appear on the ballot as follows:

  1. Madison currently has a part‑time Common Council with members who are paid approximately thirteen‑thousand seven hundred dollars ($13,700) per year. Beginning with the 2023 Spring Election, SHOULD the City of Madison transition to a full‑time Common Council with each Common Council member earning between fifty percent (50%) to eighty percent (80%) of the Adjusted Median Income for Dane County for a single parent with two children (approximately $45,000 to $71,000 per year)?
    Yes ___ No ___
  2. Madison currently has a part-time Common Council comprised of twenty (20) alderpersons, one from each alderperson district. Beginning with the 2023 Spring Election, SHOULD the size of the City of Madison Common Council:
    Be reduced ___ Be increased ___ Remain the same ____
  3. Madison alderpersons are currently elected to two (2) year terms. The Madison Mayor is currently elected to four (4) year terms. Beginning with the 2023 Spring Election, SHOULD City of Madison alderpersons be elected to four (4) year terms?
    Yes ___ No ___
  4. Madison alderpersons are currently not subject to term limits. Beginning with the 2023 Spring Election, if the City transitions to a full‑time Common Council SHOULD the City of Madison alderpersons be subject to term limits of twelve (12) consecutive years?
    Yes ___ No ___

Read the Common Council resolutions authorizing this advisory referendum

Register to vote on the Clerk's Office webpage or content them at:

City Clerk’s Office
210 Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd,
Room 103
Madison, Wisconsin 53703
(608) 266-4601

About the Task Force

The City of Madison Common Council recently created a committee of 7 residents and 4 alderpersons to examine whether changes to city government could help make the City work more effectively for all of its residents, and, particularly, for people of color and low income.

In its initial meetings, the committee, known as The Task Force on Government Structure, posed the basic question: How do we want to be governed?

Madison is asking this question now because our city is changing. With the 2020 census and pending annexations of nearby towns, we will consider redrawing city alder district boundaries. Additionally, no formal committee has examined the city's government structure since the 1980s.

The Task Force will examine specific issues related to the current structure and powers of:

  • The Common Council;
  • The Mayor’s Office; and
  • The City’s Boards, Commissions, and Committees.

In addition to considering whether changes might improve the City’s current government structure, the Task Force will also discuss alternative government structures that might better serve the City’s residents.

In the spirit of Madison’s long tradition of resident participation in City government, the Task Force will hold public meetings at least one time per month and will engage in a robust public participation process so that residents can offer their perspective on what could make government more effective. After receiving public input, the Task Force will prepare a Report to the Common Council with recommendations for how City government could be changed to work more effectively for all of its residents.

Subscribe to Email List