In their quests to be mayor, city councillors Leland Cheung and Marjorie Decker each gained a vote from fellow councillors, meaning two votes lost for David Maher, who was mayor for the past two years.

The tally Monday was three for Cheung, a second-term councillor (from himself, Denise Simmons and first-term member Minka vanBeuzekom); three for Decker, who is in her seventh term (from herself, Maher and Ken Reeves); and one each for Henrietta Davis, Craig Kelley and Tim Toomey, with each of those members voting for themselves to be mayor.

Five votes are needed from within the council for the election of a mayor. Two years ago, a deadlocked vote from within council ranks delayed the election of a mayor into nearly a third month — far from a record 1,321 ballots set in 1948.

It was Decker’s change of heart two years ago that set Maher up to be mayor. His vote this year may be a returning of the favor.

With the Martin Luther King Jr. Day holiday next week, the next scheduled council meeting is Jan. 23, and Decker asked the city clerk for advice on calling a special meeting so a third mayoral ballot could be held. Any four members can call a special meeting, the clerk said.

“But five members have to show” for a meeting to actually be held, Toomey said.

During public comment, East Cambridge resident Heather Hoffman had the council’s attention when reading from her list of the qualities she hoped to see in a mayor, including being a good leader for the School Committee, treating everyone with respect, encouraging people to be involved in public life, being transparent in their own actions and working for government transparency in all city business.

This post was updated Jan. 10, 2012, to correct that mayoral voting in the previous term extended into nearly a third month, not that the six ballots took nearly three months. On Jan. 19, 2012, a description and link to Hoffman’s list was added. On Feb. 15, 2012, it was corrected to say that there had been 1,321 mayoral ballots in 1948. An incorrect, higher figure had been provided.