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A very weird and specific law applies only to one county clerk

Thursday, Apr 28, 2016

* Brittany Hilderbrand at the Illinois Times

Despite the criticism he encountered as a result of running out of ballots during the presidential primary election in March, [Sangamon County Clerk Don Gray], a Republican, still has no Democratic opposition in the upcoming general election. Part of the reason is a quirk in state law that requires the county clerk of Sangamon County to receive training and certification as a township property assessor. Democrats may have trouble finding a candidate who qualifies.

The county clerk’s mistaken assumptions on the necessary number of ballots to print for the election, at least by some accounts, cost some registered voters their votes in one of the highest-turnout primaries held in the state. Others got to vote at the expense of their time and frustration.

For example, the State Journal-Register reported that 17-year-old Jacob Crawford was one of many registered voters who were told that Grace Bible Chapel was out of ballots and that he should go to the county building to cast his vote, a seven-mile drive. Two hours later, Crawford was finally able to vote. State law allows 17-year-olds to vote in a primary election if they will be 18 by the following general election. […]

The Illinois Township Code asserts that for any township within any city that has a population of more than 50,000 people, the county clerk shall be the ex-officio township assessor. Capital Township is the only place this rule applies in the entire state of Illinois.

The Illinois Property Tax Code requires that to become certified as the township assessor, a candidate must fulfill one of six qualifications prior to filing for candidacy. The possible qualifications include becoming a certified Illinois assessing officer, a certified assessment evaluator or having a professional designation. Completion of the classes can take anywhere from three months to a year. This could make it difficult to find a qualified candidate to run for the County Clerk position in time for the election in November. The required classes are offered through the Illinois Property Assessment Institute and the Illinois Department of Revenue. […]

Another attempt to consolidate townships occurred April 21, when the Senate passed a bill that would eliminate township clerks, assessors, collectors, highway commissioners, supervisors or trustees. Sen. Melinda Bush, D-Grayslake, sponsored the bill, calling on the House to pass the bill and Gov. Bruce Rauner to sign it. If the bill were to become law, it would ultimately eliminate Gray’s role as the township assessor.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Incorrect research - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 9:53 am:

    There are more than one townships within a city with a population over 50,000. I can name 3 just off the top of my head.

    It is still a stupid law, but it isn’t just Springfield. Peoria, Bloomington, and Champaign are also coterminous township/municipalities.

  2. - Dan S - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 9:56 am:

    This did not just come up, dumb law but the Dems have known this for years. Shame on them for not getting a qualified candidate.

  3. - Mama - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 9:58 am:

    Is the sole role of a township assessor to assess one’s property for property taxes? If that is the case, I can see the need for one to be a certified assessment evaluator.

    One thing the city people do not understand is townships take care of country roads.

  4. - Langhorne - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 10:01 am:

    If i recall correctly, that qualification is what kept linda hawker from challenging joe aiello a few years ago.

  5. - Downstate - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 10:01 am:

    In our small (population 30k) county, we have 15 different townships. Each with their own board of trustees, a supervisor, assessor, clerk and road official. Seems like consolidation would make some level of sense.

  6. - Downstate - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 10:04 am:

    Sorry, forgot to mention that in many instances the same population is also “represented” by a city council and county board. So there are as many as three layers of government for towns with a population of less than 1,000 people.

  7. - Mama - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 10:09 am:

    == So there are as many as three layers of government for towns with a population of less than 1,000 people.==

    Do all 3 levels of government do the same thing?

  8. - Anonymous - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 10:12 am:

    The Decatur Township Road Commissioner’s sole job used to be making one phone call to the City of Decatur to arrange for them to take care of the few miles of highway roads that weren’t in the city. I don’t know if it’s still that way, but it certainly was for many years.

  9. - Downstate - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 10:16 am:

    Well, the village hires people to work on roads. The township hires people to work on roads, and the county does as well. So, in that case, “yes” the three levels all do the same function. (Of course they are working on different roads.) In many instances, efficiencies could be gained with consolidation. It’s not for every county. But there are certainly some where it would make tremendous sense.

  10. - proudstatetrooper - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 10:16 am:

    Since when do we want to complain about our elected officials having to be certified and qualified to hold office. I say send them all back to school and certify them in every area possible. The Sangamon County Democratic Chairperson gets an F for effort. its like whining about never winning the lottery when you don’t play.

  11. - ILPundit - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 10:27 am:

    Linda Hawker tried to mount a run for this office years ago and had to withdraw for this very reason.

  12. - Anonymous - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 10:28 am:

    “…the Senate passed a bill that would eliminate township clerks, assessors, collectors, highway commissioners, supervisors or trustees.” I used to support township government, but no more.

    The local township road commissioner has a lock on votes because he pays $15/hour to plow snow in the winter. Local farmers and tradesmen are slow in the winter months, but once they take the township money, their whole family better vote for the local “road king” as my lawyer calls him.

    Complain about them tearing up your ditch, and he takes out your mailbox in retaliation. It’s a corrupt good old boy system that could be replaced by the county.

  13. - JS Mill - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 10:32 am:

    =Do all 3 levels of government do the same thing?=

    Yes and no. Some towns and counties are responsible for roads, but downstate the townships take care of the roads outside of the city limits. Consolidation would mean that these responsibilities would have to be covered by someone. That would probably fall to the county.

    I can see scenarios where it could improve services and save costs, but I can see where the opposite might occur as well. That would depend on the competency of the county. The county boards, down this way, talk a lot of big talk about saving money and how other entities should make changes. I have yet to see a single one turn away tax dollars though. I am not convinced that the consolidation would lower overall tax rates (saving taxpayer dollars) because whoever ends up with the consolidated responsibilities would want the revenue to cover the costs of the new tasks.

    Fewer elected boards would be one good thing though.

  14. - Dan S - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 10:40 am:

    - ILPundit - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 10:27 am:
    Linda Hawker tried to mount a run for this office years ago and had to withdraw for this very reason.

    Did Linda Hawker not do her homework before she ran?

  15. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 10:51 am:

    ==- Incorrect research - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 9:53 am:==


    Part of Savoy is in Champaign township.

  16. - Precinct Captain - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 10:55 am:

    ==- Precinct Captain - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 10:51 am:==

    After thinking about this, you were right! Champaign (the city) is in the City of Champaign Township and there is a separate Champaign Township. Urbana is also coterminous with Cunningham Township.

  17. - pool boy - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 11:41 am:

    Why didn’t the election judges call and ask for more ballots when they saw they were running low?

  18. - Judgment Day - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 11:45 am:

    Incorrect Research, I don’t quite think that’s correct.

    “There are more than one townships within a city with a population over 50,000. I can name 3 just off the top of my head.

    It is still a stupid law, but it isn’t just Springfield. Peoria, Bloomington, and Champaign are also coterminous township/municipalities.”

    Capitol township in Sangamon County does not take in all of the City of Springfield. Capitol township is not a coterminous township. It is unique. Unusual, but unique.

    Bloomington, IL is actually called the City of Bloomington Township. They are a coterminous township. It is what we used to call a “City Township”.

    The logic was that whenever the City expanded (annexations), the City Township also expanded (easier administration - sort of).

    See, the real problem is that you have an issue here that is beyond the IL legislature to change. It’s federal, and it’s historical.

    There are two types of ‘townships’ existing out there:

    1) Political (Current)
    2) Governmental (Historical)

    Governmental townships were first created when states were created, and surveyors were sent out to establish what we call today the Sectional Survey System. It’s all this ‘Township and Range’ system (Ex.: Township 23 North Range 1 East).

    But, things changed from the early 1800’s when the Sectional Survey System was first created. That’s why we have (today’s) Political Townships.

    For example, City of Bloomington Township is actually made up of parts of 7 different governmental townships.

    Here’s the link:

    Here’s Sangamon County:

    The reason for the proposed single township law is because Capitol township was originally created as unique township in Illinois. It’s a typical 6 mile by 6 mile square, but because it was established as the seat of state government, well, they made the township clerk also be the township assessor. And then (back whenever) the legislature tossed in elections for the township clerk to handle.

    Capitol township is not a coterminous township. It is unique. Unusual, but unique.

  19. - Ghost - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 12:33 pm:

    People were understandably upset over this, but Gray is human and it was record turnout. I hipe he learns from thus and puts plans in place to orevent it in the future, but i am not at pitchforks and torches level here…. maybe just a political cartoon, and a sake of the head with a tsk tsk when he goes out to coopers hawk.

  20. - Mama - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 12:47 pm:

    ==JS Mill @ 10:32 am:==

    I agree with you 100%.

  21. - Mama - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 12:52 pm:

    ==proudstatetrooper - @ 10:16 am:
    “Since when do we want to complain about our elected officials having to be certified and qualified to hold office.”==

    I have said many times that elected officials should have to pass a test before they are allowed to run for office to see if they are capable in performing their duties if elected.

  22. - downstate commissioner - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 2:35 pm:

    Hadn’t commented on this yet, but… The last paragraph in Ms. Hildebrants’ article is completely WRONG.. The Senate made changes in the procedures to consolidate or abolish townships, involving both the Township Board and a referendum. Township Officials of Illinois is “Neutral” on this particular bill, because there are no mandates. It is an entirely voluntary process.
    In some areas, consolidation might make some sense, but my guess is that in many rural areas, this will never come to a vote.
    There have been some coterminous townships that are being voted upon, and mergers passing, but in some areas, it is a non-issue.

  23. - downstate commissioner - Thursday, Apr 28, 16 @ 2:49 pm:

    just went up and reread the the thread, had missed anonymous @ 10:28: What- he didn’t hire you? Do you have a CDL? Can you pass a drug test? The days of hiring just anyone to plow snow are over, baby…
    Unless it is a true emergency where the “regular” driver is not available, big snowplow operators have to be “pre-employment” tested, they have to have CDLs to cover the vehicle they are driving, and they have to be in a random drug program.
    I pay all of the fees associated with process just to make sure that I people qualified and available to plow snow. So far, my two extra guys haven’t make $500 between the the two of them this winter. When they do go out they can expect to go out at 4 am for a few hours, or 1-2:00 pm for the same few hours.
    I sure don’t control that many votes with the money I pay for snow plowing. Oh, and the County Highway guys are all making in excess of $20 an hour plus benefits, and they are guaranteed an eight hour day..

  24. - Anonymous - Monday, May 2, 16 @ 8:44 pm:

    downstate- “What- he didn’t hire you?” Thanks for demonstrating the typical small town, how dare you doubt me, reverse emotional manipulation technique. If I question how my local hack township road commissioner does his job, it must be because I have a grudge.

    “Do you have a CDL?” Most farmers have CDLs these days, many have their own small semi trucks to haul crops to the elevator.

    “…my two extra guys haven’t make $500 between the two of them this winter.” That’s a lot of money for many rural areas where many people are unemployed or underemployed. You should have no shortage of people willing to do the job.

    You are paid by the taxpayers, people are going to question what you do and how you do it. Deal with it.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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