From 1891 until 1970, the legislative branch of the Indianapolis city government was the nine-member Common Council. This body had the power to approve city ordinances, the city government budget, and the issuance of city bonds. The council could override the mayor’s veto of its actions by a two-thirds vote. The council also could fill a vacancy in the mayor’s office with an acting mayor until the next election.

Members were elected to the council by a system that combined district representation, party slating, and at-large voting. Each major political party presented voters with a slate of six council nominees—one from each of six districts in the city. Although nominated by district, councilmen were elected citywide. Each voter in the city could vote for up to nine of the candidates, and the nine with the highest vote totals became the council. This six-nominee, nine-winner system usually meant a six-member council majority for the party that won the mayor’s office, but the losing party was still guaranteed at least three councilmen.

When Unigov took effect in 1970 the Indianapolis Common Council was combined with the Marion County Council to form a City-County Council. The City-County Council has assumed the Common Council’s former responsibilities.

Revised July 2021

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