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Per the Kentucky Constitution, all local government officers (mayors and council members or commissioners) must be elected into office. City elections can be partisan or nonpartisan, though only six of Kentucky’s 415 cities hold partisan elections. Consolidated local governments (i.e., Louisville) must elect on a partisan basis. After the passage of classification reform in 2014, all cities may choose to forego a nonpartisan primary. More than four out of five Kentucky cities have eliminated their primary.

City legislators serve two-year terms except in Louisville and Lexington. All 26 districts in Louisville throughout the county are represented by council members elected to four-year terms. The terms are staggered so that the even-numbered and odd-numbered districts are elected in different years. There are 15 council members in Lexington, 12 of which represent districts within the county while three serve on an at-large basis. The district council members serve two-year terms, while the at-large council members serve four-year terms. All cities may now choose to elect their legislative body members using a ward system (similar to districts) or a hybrid-ward system. Only three cities (excluding Lexington and Louisville that have districts) have chosen to use wards in some form.

Mayors always serve four-year terms, and former first and second class city mayors are limited to three consecutive terms. All regular elections for local officials are held in even-numbered years.