Mary Louise Childs.

Actual government in Illinois online

. (page 7 of 16)
Online LibraryMary Louise ChildsActual government in Illinois → online text (page 7 of 16)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

erty, affixed, is mailed by the board of assessors to
each tax-payer in the county. Every one can thus know
how much he is assessed on his personal property and
compare it with his neighbor's assessment. These
lists form the basis of the complaints made to the board
of review. Get such a personal property list for your
township if you live in Cook County.

B. Assessment of Real Estate in Cook County.

i. The assessment of real property is made in a different
way, to the bewilderment of the tax-payer. In coun-
ties outside of Cook, the assessments are all reviewed
by the county treasurer. In all counties except Cook,
the real-estate books are only made in duplicate. In
Cook County the county clerk makes the real-estate
books in triplicate every four years. The books are
called A, B, and C. Book A is for the county clerk.
Book B is for the assessors. Book C is for the board
of review. The county clerk, puts the legal description
of each parcel of taxable property in each of the three
books. Real-estate books are filled out by assessors
only once in four years (i), and sent to the county
clerk. Each year the assessors simply add the im-
provements made and new buildings erected during
that year and note all fire losses. There are about
13,000 new buildings erected annually in Chicago.

Assessors also keep careful track of all estates pro-
bated and note who receives all such property when
divided. They ought to work in conjunction with the
probate court and the recorder's office, if all county
departments worked for the best, most efficient service
to the tax-payers of the county.


2. When the assessors have filled out the actual and as-
sessed value of every parcel of taxable real estate in
the county for the first year of the quadrennial period
and entered same in the three books, they are sent to
the board of review for their corrections, if any are to
be made.

Book A alone is sent by the board of review to the
county clerk. Book B then stays four years with the
board of assessors, and Book C stays four years with
the board of review.

Work of the Board of Review. This board of three
men, elected for six years, hears all complaints of individual
tax-payers. Their salaries are large $7,000 and they
only give about two months of their time each year
to the work. The reason for the large salary is not ap-
parent. Between July 7 and August i these complaints,
on prescribed blanks, must be filed in person at the rooms
of the board. August is given to hearing these com-

The assessors' warrants are sent to the county clerk
from the board of review as fast as they are completed and
all are finished about September 15.

Work of the State Board of Equalization. The State
board of equalization equalizes assessments of real and
personal property between counties in the State and also
assesses railroads and certain corporations, and the State
auditor reports these values to the various county clerks.
Each of the 102 county clerks in the State sends the lists
of real and personal property for the county to the State
auditor, who is a member of the board. The board now
numbers twenty-six: one member elected from each con-
gressional district, and the State auditor is a member ex-
officio. The members are chosen in November for a term


o(f four years each. The annual meetings are held in

Their work is also to assess railroad tracks, or " right of
way," and their rolling stock cars and locomotives and
to assess capital stock of Illinois corporations. The local
assessor looks after the property of foreign corporations
doing business in the State.

The work of the board is done through committees and
largely through " star chamber " methods. Its rules of
procedure are over forty years old and its work is clumsy
and inefficient. " It should be abolished and a small tax
commission appointed by the governor substituted." 2

Work of County Clerk (on Personal Property). The
county clerk is obliged to copy all names, addresses, and
assessed values (since 1909 one-third of the real value) of
all personal property in Cook County from the assessor's
personal property tax warrants sent him from the board of
review. This is called the " collector's warrant."

Computing the Rate. The county clerk computes the
rate of taxation by dividing the amount of tax to be raised
in any township or taxation district by the assessed value
of all the taxable property in that district including per-
sonal property, real estate, certain railroad property, and
capital stock of corporations. Each taxing body (except
the State of Illinois) certifies its tax levy, or amount
needed from the taxes, to the county clerk for this very
purpose. There are about four hundred different taxing
bodies townships, school districts, cities, villages in
Cook County. The rate of taxation has to be found sepa-
rately for each of these bodies, because there is some taxing

2 Report, Special Tax Commission, John A. Fairlie, Secretary, No-
vember 1910.


body, for instance, a small park district in one city or vil-
lage, that is not included in any other, thus making a dif-
ferent rate for that district. The assessed value of each
piece of taxable real estate in the county is multiplied by
the rate and the amount entered in the assessor's books
opposite the description of the property. The amount of
a tax-payer's personal property tax is found in the same
way, using the same rate, and is also entered in the asses-
sor's books. The sum of these two amounts makes the
total of a property-owner's taxes, except special assess-
ments, a large exception if you live in a city.

To still further complicate the process, the rate for State,
county, township, sanitary, school, and park districts must
be computed separately, by a similar process. It is easy to
understand in Cook County, where the difficulties are the
greatest, why the county clerk's office employs three hun-
dred men during November, December, and January, the
busiest season, for all the complicated work of " extending
the taxes " and entering them in the assessor's books.
When the work is finished the county clerk sends the books
to the collectors, and the work of the tax-payer begins.

Collection of Taxes. This is easy compared with the
assessment of property and extension of the taxes just de-
scribed. Taxes are due on and after January 2 annually.
In all counties under township organization, including Cook,
taxes are payable to the town collector until about March
15. Within Chicago, taxes are payable to the county col-
lector, who is also the county treasurer. In the seventeen
southern counties not under township organization the
sheriff is tax collector.

Delinquent Taxes. Taxes are delinquent April i
and must all be paid to the county collector. Interest at


i per cent, a month is added after May i as a penalty for
tardy payment. Two per cent, of the delinquent taxes
collected may be retained by the county collector as his
lawful fee. This ought to be remedied by a law giving the
county collector a fair salary and having all such fees paid
into the county treasury. (2)

If the taxes are unpaid August I, the county collector
and the county clerk, or their deputy, must sell the real
estate at public auction for the taxes.

Redemption of Property. The owner has two years
in which to redeem his property at the office of the county
clerk by paying arrears of taxes and all other fees incident
to the sale. After the two years are up, the owner can
only recover his property by making a bargain with the
purchaser, who meanwhile holds a tax deed for the prop-

Restrictions on the Taxing Power. The Legislature
can not contract any debt for the State beyond $250,000,
unless the people, by a referendum vote, approve such bond
issue. All local taxing bodies in the State are limited by
the constitution, or the laws, in respect to the amount of
taxes they may levy. Except by vote of the people, county
boards can not levy a tax of more than 75 cents on each
$100 of the assessed value. City governments are limited
to 2 per cent, of the assessed value of property within their
boundaries; school-boards are limited to 5 per cent, on the
assessed value of property in the district (school buildings
excluded), and park and sanitary districts are equally
limited. These percentages are for annual expenditures;
the debt limit, or right to issue bonds for public improve-
ments, etc., is in addition to these percentages. This works
special hardship on a large city like Chicago, and prevents


many greatly needed public improvements being started.
The General Assembly of 1913 passed an amendment to
the Juul Law which will give some relief by allowing cities
to levy larger taxes and thus gain an increased income by

Conclusion. This cumbersome and complicated sys-
tem of assessing property, the taxing of personal property,
and the undervaluation of all property, leads to dishonesty
on the part of the owners, who never think of reporting
all their personal property at its full cash value. Conse-
quently, taxes in Illinois fall heaviest on conscientious
people, while rich property owners generally escape their
just share of taxation.

Illinois greatly needs a thorough revision and simplify-
ing of her revenue act and an amendment to the constitu-
tion to make such revision effective. But to amend our
constitution seems almost an impossibility. 3

The local assessors and the county employees for the as-
sessment and collection of taxes deserve much credit for
better work than could be expected under the handicaps of
such a confused and complicated law. The Legislature of
1915 refused to provide a small tax commission to super-
vise and simplify our system of taxation. (3) The Legisla-
ture also later refused to abolish the board of equalization.


Get copies of Personal Property Tax Warrant, Personal Prop-
erty Schedule, list of personal property tax-payers in your town-
ship with the amount of their personal property; a copy of the
county collector's warrant blank sheet, tax receipts, etc.

Get the assessor to fill out a sample real-estate assessment on a
well-known piece of property in your township, or school district,

8 Amendment of the Illinois Constitution, pp. 198-200.


and notice what is entered on the assessor's book. If possible,
visit the office of the county collector and see the tax books for
your school district.

Get a copy of the newspaper in your county with the advertise-
ments of real estate to be sold for delinquent taxes.

Assessment of Personal Property, Town of Ridgeville (4), for 1915.

Board of Assessors Board of Review

$3,213,438 $3,066,627

The assessed or one-third value of Real Estate, bounded by
Rush Street bridge to Twelfth Street and from Lake Street to the
river, for 1915 : (5)

Board of Assessors Board of Review

$213,215,572 $194,455,379

The assessed or one-third value of Real Estate in the City of
Evanston for 1915 :

Board of Assessors Board of Review

$10,525,606 $10,233,200

The tax rate in school district No. 75 is divided as follows :

State $ .55

County 59

Sanitary 42

City of Evanston 1.85

High School 1.25

Public Schools 2.27


The above rates are the total rates of all tax levies, except for
park purposes and are on each $100 of assessed 'value of property.



1. The Election Laws of Illinois, issued by the secretary of State;

also by election commissioners of Chicago ; also issued by
county clerk.

2. The Session Laws of 1913, pp. 307-333: for 1915, pp. 393-399-

Principal Election Districts.

A. Congressional, to elect one representative for Congress.

The number depends upon the population as deter-
mined by the Federal census taken every ten years.
At present there are twenty-five Congressional dis-
tricts, because the last General Assembly failed to
reapportion the State. Nevertheless, Illinois has
twenty-seven Congressmen on account of the in-
crease in population, and the two additional are
elected Nov., even years, " at large," or by the entire
State, instead of by districts.

B. Fifty-one Senatorial, to elect one State senator and

three State representatives for the General Assembly
at Springfield.

C. Seven Judicial districts to elect one judge each for the

State supreme court.

D. Eighteen circuit districts to elect three judges in each,

except the eighteenth (Cook County), where twenty
circuit and eighteen superior judges are now
chosen. Appellate judges are appointed by the su-


preme court from elected circuit judges, and the four
appellate districts into which the State is divided
are only for the purpose of holding sessions of the
appellate court, assigning judges, and electing a clerk
of the appellate court.

E. School districts, to elect three school directors and three

trustees in country districts, or members of boards
of education in villages and small cities.

F. Precincts, subdivisions of wards to provide sufficient

polling places for elections in cities.

Qualifications of a Legal Voter in Illinois.

A. Citizen of the United States, either native born or


B. At least twenty-one years old.

C. Three residence qualifications.

1. One year in the State. .

2. Ninety days in the county.

3. Thirty days in the election district. In the city

this means a precinct; in the country, a town-
ship; in the seventeen non-township counties,
an " election precinct." These five provisions
are in the State constitution and can not be
changed without an amendment, in the case of
the election of any constitutional officer. 1
They apply to women voters exactly the same
as to men.

1 These same qualifications have generally been prescribed by the
Legislature in the election of other officers whose places have been
created by the Legislature. This has not always been the case, as
under an agricultural drainage law of 1885, "adult owners of real
estate " were the only qualified electors in such drainage districts.


Election Officers (for Chicago). Three election
commissioners are appointed by the county judge for three
years. The board must be bi-partisan, no more than two
from the same party. The salary is $4,000 per year. The
chief clerk receives $5,000 per year and there is an assistant
chief clerk at $3,000 per year. The real work of the board,
as usual, is done by these employees. The duties of the
board are to appoint all the judges and clerks of election,
have charge of all printing and the distribution of the bal-
lots, of the ballot-boxes, polling-booths, registration lists,
the selection of polling-places, counting the ballots, and all
work connected in any way with an election. The county
judge has legal supervision over all elections. Chicago
had 2,191 precincts at the elections in November, 1916.
Each precinct contains 300 voters 2 as nearly as may be,
and its polling place must have one booth for each seventy-
five voters. For this reason you usually find four polling
booths in each polling-place. There are three judges and
two clerks appointed for each precinct, paid $5.00 (Cook
County) per day for four or five days' work, (i) In the
election districts in the counties, except Cook, the pay of
election officers is only $3.00 per day.

Registration (in Chicago). There are two general
registration days, Saturday and Tuesday, four and three
weeks before election. An amendment to the primary law
adds two new registration days, one before each primary
election in February and September (Session Laws, 1913).
The three judges of election in each precinct form a board
of registry. Each voter must register in person at the poll-
ing place in his precinct, giving name, residence, age, nativ-
ity, citizenship in the United States, to the judges of elec-

2 In country districts, there are about 400 voters to a precinct.


tion. These registration lists are verified afterward by
the two clerks of each precinct acting as canvassers. The
revised lists are sent to the election commissioners in the
city hall, who order the names and addresses, arranged by
streets and blocks, printed. Other information obtained
is kept secret, such as the ages of women voters register-

Any voter on application can get an accurate list of all
legally qualified voters in his precinct without charge.
These lists are used by all the political parties through their
precinct captains and election workers to check up the vote
and aid in getting voters to the polls on election day.

Registration in Country Districts. Wherever the
" Cities and Villages Election Act " has not been adopted,
e. g., in Evanston, Blue Island, Washington Heights, the
county board appoints three judges of election for each
election district and each judge appoints one clerk. The
three -judges form the board of registry for the district and
meet three weeks before the election. At this time it is
their duty to make a new registration list by transferring
from the poll lists of the last general election the names
and addresses of all legal voters of the district and adding
thereto any new names of which they have knowledge.

A voter may send by mail to the judges on registration
day his name and address and that of his neighbor, if he
chooses, and the judges will register such names. These
lists are verified by the clerks, printed and posted in some
conspicuous place where any one can consult them.

It will be noticed that registration is much more informal
and less exacting in the country districts than in Chicago.
The restrictions on voting, in a great city full of stran-
gers and containing a large floating and foreign-born pop-


ulation need to be much more severe than in a small
city, or in the country where neighbors know each other

Primary Elections. The Illinois General Assembly
passed the present primary election law at a special session
in 1910. The law was due largely to the efforts of Gov-
ernor Charles S. Deneen, who called a special session of the
Legislature for this purpose. A primary election allows
voters to nominate directly candidates for office, and places
such popular nominations under a law similar to the regular
election law. The present primary law is the fourth passed.
Three have been declared unconstitutional by the supreme

At the primary held in February, April, or September,
according to the office to be filled, every voter must declare
his party publicly before he is allowed to vote for the
nomination of candidates for office. If he has voted for
the candidate of any other party within two years preceding
the primary election, or has signed a nominating petition
for any independent candidate, or a candidate of another
party, he can not vote at that primary. Voters must not
change their minds about their party affiliations oftener
than once in two years.

These are bad provisions and keep many voters away,
from the primaries, where their votes are needed to nomi-
nate suitable men for office. The Illinois primary law is
planned to encourage partisanship and discourage independ-
ent voting, a distinctly bad policy, that tends to destroy
the good effect of a primary law. The principle of the
primary law is admirable, and represents a long step in
advance because the rank and file of a party now have some
direct control through the primary election over the nomina-


tions of candidates and the choice of party committees.
Should any one desire to run as an independent candidate
for office, he can still do so by getting a petition signed by
a prescribed number of legal voters, the number of signa-
tures depending on the office. But as long as we are not
allowed non-partisan ballots at either the primaries or the
regular elections, the independent candidate labors under a
very great disadvantage, as he lacks the powerful aid of
the organized machinery of the regular parties and the help
of a party campaign fund. The chances of election of the
candidate nominated by petition are exceedingly slender.
Illinois has great need of a non-partisan election law that
will do away with the party circle for all judicial, city,
town, county, and sanitary district elections. Such a bill
was defeated in the last Legislature.

Committeemen for Political Parties. The law also
provides for the election of a precinct committeeman in
each precinct and one member of the State central commit-
tee of each political party from each congressional dis-
trict in the State. These elected committees now control
the party ; but the old congressional, county, and State con-
ventions (2) are still retained to draw up platforms, discuss
party management, and select delegates for the National
nominating convention that selects the candidates for Pres-
ident and Vice-President.

The Election. Description of the Ballot. Since 1891,
all voting for officers in Illinois has been by ballot, and the
Australian form, with the party columns and circles, is used.
In counties under township organization, having town
meetings, the viva voce method ("by living voice"), still
prevails, as to propositions. Otherwise the Australian bal-
lot is used. The official ballot is white: specimen ballots


in color must be posted in conspicuous places at least five
days before election to enable the voters to study them and
learn the names of the various candidates for office. As
there are from 300 to 400 names on the " blanket " ballots
used in Cook County at the general election in November
of the presidential years, it is very necessary to study the
ballot beforehand if you vote intelligently. Cook County
elects twenty-three (23) executive and judicial officials,
thirty-eight (38) circuit and superior judges, and fifteen
(15) county commissioners seventy names to be placed
on the ballot under each party column at each quadrennial
November election. This is one of our most striking illus-
trations of the great need of ballot reform through a shorter
ballot. Sample ballots can be secured beforehand from
county clerks or city clerks.

The names of all candidates are on the same ballot, ar-
ranged under their party columns. A small square at left
of each name and a circle at the left of the party name
enable the voter to mark his ballot.

At the polling-place of his precinct, an election judge
gives him an official ballot, after the voter has declared his
name and residence, and it has been found and checked by
the clerk in the registration book. The clerk must also
enter the voter's name and residence on a poll list, which
is afterward compared with the list of registered voters,
showing exactly what percentage of qualified voters in that
precinct used their voting privilege.

Marking the Ballot. The voter enters a polling-booth,
where writing material is provided, and places an X in the
party circle if he wishes to vote a straight ticket, or in the
square opposite the name of every candidate for whom
he desires to vote if he wishes to vote a "split" or


"scratch" ticket. The latter is independent voting, where
the voter refuses to be bound by any one party and chooses
the best man nominated regardless of party. The voter
is absolutely free to split his ballot at any regular election
whether he has voted at the primary or not.

The voter is allowed ten minutes in the polling-booth
to mark his ballot, if no one is waiting to use the booth;
otherwise, only five minutes. Should a voter be crippled
or blind, and unable to mark his ballot personally, then
two election officers of different political parties may enter
the polling-booth and mark his ballot according to his dic-
tation. No drunken person may receive any assistance in
marking his ballot.

The judge must put his own initials on the back of the
ballot given the voter, and the latter must fold his ballot
with those initials out before leaving the polling-booth,
and must then watch the election officer drop his ballot
in the ballot-box. The ballot-box must be in plain view
and kept locked and never left unguarded during the elec-
tion hours.

These are all legal provisions and there is a common-
sense reason for every one. The great object of the Aus-

1 2 3 4 5 7 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

Online LibraryMary Louise ChildsActual government in Illinois → online text (page 7 of 16)