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Evanston Residents Vote In Favor Of Abolishing Township

Evanston Township High School

(Credit: CBS)

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EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) — Voters in Evanston on Tuesday cast their ballots in favor of abolishing the township form of government.

The nonbinding referendum does not automatically dissolve the government for Evanston Township, but it sets the stage for legislative action to do so.

The Sun-Times’ Evanston Review said the referendum passed with about 67 percent of voters casting ballots in favor of abolishing the township, and 33 percent voting no.

The Chicago Tribune reported last fall that a township trustee said taxpayers could save more than $500,000 per year of lawmakers eliminate the township system.

Better Government Association executive director Andy Shaw told WBBM Newsradio’s Sherman Kaplan and Kris Kridel that the move in favor of abolishing the township was a much-needed “efficiency move.”

Shaw said the BGA believes Evanston was right to “let the residents of a township dissolve themselves if they agree that townships are an essentially worthless form of government.”

He said the vote in Evanston was one of a few pieces of good news in the Tuesday primary, which was plagued by lack of voter turnout. Shaw also complained about the vote to re-nominate state Rep. Derrick Smith (D-Chicago), even though he is facing a federal bribery charge.

The township government has a supervisor and an assessor, and also provides help for low-income residents.

In October, Evanston city attorney Grant Farrar explained that going through with dissolving the township could be a complex process.

He said the laws regarding townships are mired in conflicted Illinois state statutes. While the state constitution appears to give the power for a township to dissolve itself unilaterally, township code indicates that all the other townships in Cook County must also approve the move, the Tribune reported.

The last Illinois township to be dissolved was in downstate Williamson County in 1932, the Tribune reported.

In total, there are 30 townships in suburban Cook County. All but five – Evanston, Oak Park, River forest, Berwyn and Cicero – are composed of multiple suburbs and/or unincorporated areas.

There are also six townships that are contained within the city of Chicago, and parts of the city that extend into the suburban townships. But the Chicago city townships are only used in property assessments and recordkeeping, and have no separate government structures.