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result in the establishment of districts regarded as too large for
state representative purposes. Of course, it would be possible
to reach much the same result as that now existing in Illinois
by adopting the rule that each congressional district should be
divided into two senatorial districts. Such a plan, if it con-
tinued the present Illinois system by which the two houses are
chosen from the same representative districts, would, of course,
involve a gradual increase in the membership of both houses,
that is, if the population of Illinois continues to increase as it
has done in the past.

The plan of decennial apportionments of members to the
national house of representatives has almost necessarily resulted
in a decennial increase in the niunber of members of that body.
This increase has been forced as a political expedient because of
the fact that no state desires to lose membership in the house of
representatives, such loss of membership involving the appor-
tionment of the state into a smaller niunber of districts, and
necessarily the loss of his seat by some one of the existing mem-
bers of the house. To this purely political influence is added
the sentiment upon the part of the state that it does not wish
to go backward in representation, although, of course, it does
go backward in proportion to the representation of states which
are increasing in population or increasing more rapidly.

In Illinois there has been a settled constitutional practice of
limiting the membership of the two houses of the general assem-
bly. This limitation has not always been an absolute one, but
by the constitution of 1870 the membership of the senate is
explicitly limited to fifty-one, and the membership of the house
of representatives to three times this number. Some definite
limitation upon the membership of state legislative bodies is
desirable, and the absence of limitation, together with a popula-
tion basis for reapportionment, is almost certain to lead to
steady increase in total membership. However, if state legisla-
tive representation were based upon congressional areas, the
increase would be relatively slight and would be determined by
considerations not controlled by the state legislative body itself.

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Cook County is now the only county in Illinois having more
than one senatorial district. Within Cook County there are
two primary governmental areas, the wards within the city of
Chicago, and the townships in the less thickly populated dis-
tricts outside of the city. No eflfort has been made to take
ward lines as a basis for the apportionment of senators within
the city of Chicago, and it would be extremely diflBcult to use
wards as a basis for senatorial apportionment, because there
has been no recent reapportionment of wards within the city of
Chicago and the representative system for the city coimcil of
that city is now distinctly imequal. Townships in Cook County
outside of the city of Chicago vary so materially in population,
that there is no opportunity for an eflfective use of them as units
in the construction of congressional and senatorial districts.
That is, under present conditions there is no possibility of
preserving the individuality of local areas within Cook County
as parts of larger state and national representative areas.

The division of governmental territory into election precincts
has no bearing upon the problem here imder discussion as such
division is primarily based upon the number of voters within
particular areas, modified to some extent by the convenience of
polling places to the voters. Election precincts are, as a matter
of necessity, always within county lines, and also within the
ward lines of the city of Chicago.


Aside from the city courts which have been established in
twenty-six cities, and the municipal court of Chicago, the county
is the primary unit of judicial organization in Illinois. The
jurisdictions of the city coxirts and of the municipal court of
Chicago are confined to the limits of their respective cities.
Justices of the peace are elected by local communities within the
county, but their jurisdiction extends throughout the coimty.
The jury and grand jury systems are based upon the coimty as
a unit. The constitutional guaranty of jury trial has been
interpreted to require that a jury be drawn from the coimty,

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and so distinctly is this the case that it has been held improper
to have a city court for a city which is partly within two coun-
ties, because of the confusion and difficulty that would result in
the drawing of juries for such a court.^ A state's attorney
is elected for each county. By statute there is a county court
for each county, and a probate court for each county with 70,000
or more inhabitants. The constitution provides that counties
may be united for the establishment of county courts, but the
statutory organization of county courts provides one for each

The constitution provides an alternative method for the
organization of circuit courts. Under one plan, one judge was
to be elected for each circuit, and circuits were not to exceed in
nimiber one for each 100,000 inhabitants. Under the other
plan the general assembly was authorized to divide the state
into circuits of greater population and territory, and to provide
for the election therein, by general ticket, of not exceeding four
judges. By statute, provision has been made for seventeen
circuits outside of Cook County, three judges being elected at
large from each circuit. Circuits are in all cases required to be
"formed of contiguous counties, in as nearly compact form and
as nearly equal as circumstances will permit, having due regard
to business, territory and population."

Cook Coxmty forms a distinct judicial area with two courts
(the circuit and the superior courts) constituted for the exercise
of the jurisdiction elsewhere vested in the circuit court.

By the constitution the general assembly was authorized to
create inferior appellate courts, such courts to be held by such
number of judges of the circuit courts and at such times and
places and in such manner as might be provided by law. In
the eiercise of its authority to create appellate courts, the gen-
eral assembly has established four appellate districts. Cook
County forming one of these appellate districts.

For the election of the seven judges of the supreme court the
state was, by the constitution of 1870, divided into seven dis-
tricts, and the general assembly was authorized to change the

1 People V. Rodenburg, 254 111. 386 (1912).

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boundaries of the districts ''at the session of the general assem-
bly next preceding the election for judges therein, and at no
other time." Alterations, when made, were required to be upon
the rule of equality of population as nearly as county boundaries
would permit, and the districts were required to be composed of
contiguous coxmties in as nearly compact form as circumstances
would permit. Inasmuch as supreme court judges are not all
elected at the same time, and in view of the further fact that the
change of the boundaries of one district would necessarily involve
changing the boimdaries of some other district, the supreme
court foimd it necessary to interpret the provision as to the time
of changing supreme court districts so as to permit the alteration
of one district to effect a change in other districts, even though
such changes were not made immediately prior to the election of
judges within all the districts whose boundaries were so change^.
The constitution contains similar provisions regarding the
change of judicial circuits, but the provisions have made no
trouble because all circuit judges are elected at the same time.

In 1870, the state was divided into three grand divisions, in
each of which the supreme court held sessions. This plan was
continued by the constitution of 1870, but the general assembly
was authorized to alter this arrangement, and by legislation
of 1897 the grand divisions for the supreme court were abolished
and all terms of the supreme court are now held at the state
capital. The supreme court grand divisions have, however,
been made the basis for the organization of the appellate court
.districts. The second appellate court district includes all the
counties in the former northern grand division of the supreme
court, except Cook County which is organized into a separate
appellate district; and the third and fourth appellate court dis-
tricts include the counties in the former southern and central
grand divisions of the supreme court, respectively.

It will be noted that the constitution provides regarding
supreme court districts that such districts shall be based upon
the rule of equality of population as nearly as coimty boimdaries
will allow, and that the constitutional provisions regarding
judicial circuits require that such circuits shall be formed of

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contiguous counties. There is no requirement that appellate
court districts shall be composed of counties as units, although
such a result is accomplished by legislation, and, partly for
political reasons, the supreme court grand divisions have been
used as a basis for the appellate courts.

Although appellate courts are held by judges of the circuit
courts, the circuits are not entirely within appellate court dis-
tricts. The ninth, tenth and eleventh circuits are split, part of
the counties of each being in the second district and part in the
third. Similarly, the fourth circuit is split between the third
and fourth appellate districts. The first appellate district is
composed of Cook County, and the lines for this district are
necessarily the same as the lines boimding the circuit court area.
For the other three appellate court districts, however, there is a
crossing of the lines of circuits, although under the constitution
and statutes circuit judges are designated to hold the appellate
court, and appeals to that court are in the main taken from the
circuit courts.

As has already been suggested, the coimty is the primary unit
of judicial organization. Counties form the units which make
up the circuits, the appellate districts, and the supreme court
election districts, although the lines of all of these larger areas
cross each other. For the city courts and the municipal court
of Chicago the city is the area of jurisdiction, but juries for these
courts are drawn from areas boxmded by coimty lines. The
prosecuting machinery is organized on coxmty lines, the jury
system on county lines; and although justices of the peace are
elected from smaller areas, each justice of the peace (except in
Chicago), no matter in what part of a large coimty he may be,
has a jurisdiction extending throughout the limits of the coimty.


There are three main types of local government districts in
the state of Illinois: coimties, townships and school districts.
Each part of the state is at the same time in a county, a school
township and a school district; and every part of the state is

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also in a civU township or a road district. In addition, there
are over a thousand cities, villages and incorporated towns;
and also a considerable number of drainage, park, high school
and other special districts. These districts for local government
purposes overlap each other, and the result is a more compli-
cated and confusing network of local areas and local authorities
than in any other state.

There are one hundred and two counties. These coimties
vary widely in area and population. There are twenty-nine
with less than 400 square miles (the minimum area specified by
the constitution for new counties), and several with less than
200 square miles, while six are more than 1000 square miles in
area. In population the coimties range from 7000 to more than
2,500,000; fifty counties had less than 25,000, and 17 had more
than 50,000 population in 1910.

The constitution contains a number of provisions regarding
the creation of new counties, the change of county boundaries
and the removal of county seats, and these provisions are sup-
plemented by statutes regarding the same matters and with
respect to union of counties. Since 1859 no new counties have
been created and no counties have been united.

Under the constitution three types of county government are
provided. The township system may be adopted by any coimty
desiring to adopt it. The township system was first provided
for by the constitution of 1848, and the provisions for this sys-
tem were continued with some alteration in the constitution of
1870. Eighty-five counties have adopted the township system,
and the county law provides for the government of these coun-
ties (except Cook County) by boards of supervisors elected by
the towns at their meetings in April for terms of two years. The
size of coimty boards ranges from five in Putnam to 53 in La
Salle County. In eighteen counties there are thirty or more
members. The niunber of members of the county board of
supervisors depends, of coxirse, upon the number of townships
into which the county is organized. There are in the state
1430 civil townships with an average area of a little more than
35 square miles each.

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For Cook County the constitution provides a board of fifteen
commissioners, ten elected from the city of Chicago, and five
from the towns outside of the city; by statute these commis-
sioners are now elected for a four-year term and one member is
elected as president of the board with special powers.

In counties which have not adopted the township sjrstem, the
state constitution provides for "a board of county commission-
ers, consisting of three members elected at large, one each year,''
for three-year terms. There are seventeen coxmties which have
not adopted the township system. For the counties which have
not adopted the township system the constitution prescribes a
rigid form of coimty government, which makes it necessary that
coimty elections be held annually for coimty commissioners.
The government of Cook County and of the counties not desir-
ing to adopt the township system is rigid and cannot be altered
without constitutional change.

The constitution does not prescribe definitely the form of
township organization, but leaves this matter to the general
assembly so that some possibility of flexible coimty organization
exists in this respect, the court having said that "the whole
modus operandi of township organization is committed to the
legislature, the constitution prescribing no particular form or
oflBcers, and the legislature has the power to fix and limit the
powers of the township oflScers and to modify them at will."*
However, the constitution does prescribe the formalities for the
adoption or the abolition of township government^ and the
supreme court has said that a statute giving the county board
power to alter the boundaries of townships cannot be construed
to permit the coimty board to consolidate townships, since this
construction would allow the county board to consolidate all
townships of the county, and result in making void the formali-
ties prescribed in the constitution for the abolition of the town-
ship system.^

Reference has already been made to the number of cities,
villages and incorporated towns exercising powers of local gov-

• People V. Commissioners of Cook County, 176 111. 576 (1808).
•People V. Brayton, 94 111. 341 (1880).

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eminent. These communities in all cases occupy territory over
which other areas exercise functions of local government, so that
in no case is a city, village or incorporated town the only body
for the exercise of purely local functions within its territory.
The county is, in all cases, an area covering the same territory
as cities, villages and incorporated towns, and is exercising dis-
tinct and independent local functions which are similar to those
exercised by incorporated areas.

Within the areas of incorporated communities as well as in
territory not incorporated, there is, as has already been noted,
a series of park, drainage, sanitary, forest preserve, and other
districts for the performance of certain specific fimctions. In
1917 provision was made for the establishment of local health
districts, composed, of two or more townships.

All parts of the state are overlapped by a complex series of
local areas for the performance of diflferent or similar fimctions
of local government. Of course, certain areas of the state are
organized into a more complex system of local areas than others.
Cook County, with its more concentrated population, presents
the most serious problems as to local government organization;
but much the same type of problem presents itself in urban
areas such as those in and around East St. Louis, and in terri-
tories where there are several urban communities in close prox-
imity to each other, such as Rock Island and Moline, Champaign
and Urbana, and La Salle and Peru.

Taking the various local districts as a group, there is an aggre-
gate of 2557 public officers voted for in Cook County. Each
male elector in Cook County is expected to vote for from 172
to 197 diflferent officers in a brief number of years. At the
November election in 1916, each male elector was called on to
vote for 72 officials in Chicago, and in other parts of Cook County
for 61 officials. For the state, including Cook Coimty as well
as other counties, the niunber of officials to be elected for each
local governmental body at one time is not great, and as the
elections for the diflferent local districts are held at diflferent times
the total number of local officers to be voted for at one election
is not large, but this result is seciu*ed by multiplying the num-

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ber of elections. There are seven regular local elections each
year in the spring months. In years when circuit or supreme
court judges are to be elected, there are as many as eight elec-
tions within a five-month period. These are in addition to the
general state primaries and elections in September and Novem-
ber every second year, and the presidential primaries every
fourth year.

The complexity of local government in Illinois is increased by
a mass of legislation which is general in form, and which ordi-
narily for this reason complies with the constitutional require-
ments, but which is in fact special. For Cook Coimty and for
Chicago special legislation is, imder certain conditions, explicitly
authorized. The statutes of Illinois also contain with respect to
local government a large mass of optional legislation, and there
is no central record or central knowledge in any one place as to
what communities have or have not come under the terms of
such laws. Of course, optional legislation is to a large extent
employed as a means of avoiding constitutional limitations upon
local and special legislation, and a law is frequently passed to
meet the specific needs of only one community but is made gen-
erally optional in form.

Not only is there confusion because a large number of local
areas overlap each other and perform different fimctions of local
government, but with respect to the same function of local gov-
ernment there may be oftentimes a number of local areas with
crossing lines and with powers almost identical as to the same
matter. This situation presents itself particularly with respect
to schools. A community consolidated school district may be
organized in this state with all of the powers of other school dis-
tricts under the laws of the state. A community high school
district may be organized for the purpose of conducting a high
school. Under the general laws of the state a community con-
solidated school district may conduct a high school, but it mav
be partly within the boimdaries of a community high school dis-
trict authorized to conduct a high school and to do nothing else.
The supreme court has reached the conclusion that the two dis-
tricts may not tax the same area for precisely the same purpose,

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although both districts may have the power to do precisely the
same thing. This presents a dijfficiilt and complex situation,
probably more extreme than that presented by other overlap-
ping areas of local government, but little diflferent in fact. The
supreme court has suggested in a recent case that where a
high school district overlaps part of an ordinary school district
neither will be held invalid, for the reason that the supreme
court will assume that the ordinary school district will, as to
any overlapping area, confine itself to the operation of elementary
schools, while the high school district will confine itself to the
operation of a high school. The court suggests that where the
districts have conflicting powers which the two cannot exercise,
a mutual arrangement will probably be reached by which con-
flict may be avoided.^

The practice in Illinois, as in other states, has to a large extent
been that of creating a new local area whenever it was desired to
provide for a new function of local government. The multi-
plication of local areas has reached such a point that it confuses
the citizen, and no one of such areas ordinarily has a suflScient
amount of work to be effective. The scattering of energy and
the division of local government work into small separate parts
constitute the worst features of local governmental organization
in this country. Reference has already been made to the con-
fusion of districts having to do with school matters in Illinois.
The districts are small and there are numerous types of districts
for different purposes, such districts often overlapping.

There is for the state as a whole no effective central record of
all local areas; and no effective coimty record of all the areas
within each coimty. With respect to drainage matters there
are certain transactions which must be had before the county
court, and the coimty collector is the final authority for the col-
lection of delinquent special assessments, but except with respect
to certain of these matters where the records of action are scat-
tered among various county offices, there is no means of deter-
mining the location, areas, and other information regarding the
different types of drainage districts.

* People V. Woodward, 285 111. 165 (1918).

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There is no central record for the state as a whole of the finan-
cial or other transactions of the county and of all the other local
areas within each county, nor for all of the local areas lying
within any specific portion of the territory of the state. Not
only is there no state record but there is no county record for
each county which may be employed for the discovery of the
local government situation in any particular county. Legis-
lation of 1919, replacing an act of 1881, provides that "every
public officer other than a state officer, who, by virtue of his
office receives for disbursement and disburses public funds in
discharge of governmental or municipal debts and liabilities,
shall, at the expiration of each fiscal year, prepare a statement;"
and further provides that such statement shall, within thirty
days after the expiration of the fiscal year, be published once in
a newspaper published in the town, district or mxmicipality in
which such public officer holds his office. This law lays down no
conditions as to imiform statements, and does not aid in reducing
the present confusion of local government. Each officer of the
county or other local area who disburses public funds is required
to make a separate statement, and may make this statement
in any form in which he sees fit. Publication of such statements
accomplishes little, other than making a pajonent necessary to
the local newspaper.*

By statute the county clerks are made the authorities for the
extension of all taxes for the respective towns, townships, dis-

Online LibraryWestel Woodbury WilloughbyThe American political science review → online text (page 25 of 77)