CHICAGO — This past Election Day, Cook County voters
chose to merge the Cook County Clerk’s Office and the Cook County
Recorder of Deeds, a move supporters believe will result in cost savings and increased efficiency for taxpayers.
Professor of Political Science at the University of Illinois at Chicago, told the Cook County Record that "the
results are an expression of voters' appetite for structured reform and local
government. It was a move to tackle the issue
of the clutter of the ballot."
The merger vote came about six years after The Civic
Foundation, a nonpartisan government research organization, published its 2010
Cook County Modernization Report, which recommended the merger as a way to "eliminate
costly duplication and reduce citizen confusion in finding the services they
need," forecasting approximate annual savings up to $1 million tax dollars. Further, the group reported that eight of the nation’s 10 largest
counties had combined their recorder and clerk offices. For Fiscal Year 2016, the County Clerk
was allocated $8.2 million and the Recorder $5.2 million.
The Clerk's 2016 budget is $35.2 million and the Recorder's is $12.6 million.
Simpson said he believes the merger was necessary.
"Streamlining is a major issue
to make government more efficient and accountable, and this merger makes the
function of property tax more structured," he said, estimating that
taxpayers could save more than $800,000 annually.
of racism swirled around the referendum, voted 10-5
by the County's Board of Commissioners during the summer to be put on the
November election ballot. The Recorder's
position has been held by an African-American since 1988, including current Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough. All five
African-American County Board Commissioners voted against the proposal. County Clerk David Orr, elected since 1991, supported
the proposed merger.
Simpson said he believes the racial allegations may continue because of the African-American control over several appointed
offices, but said this isn't the issue the electorate feels is at stake. The referendum gave Dec. 7, 2020, as the
deadline for absorption of the Recorder’s office.
Both officers are
elected officials, and maintain and manage different county records. The Clerk's office keeps birth, marriage and
death records, calculates property tax rates, oversees elections in the
county’s suburbs, and maintains County Board records and ethics filings.
office creates public records of land transactions, federal and state tax
liens, articles of incorporation, and uniform commercial code filings and
keeps property records, tracks liens, collects transfer taxes and stores
veterans' discharge records.
Simpson said that similar mergers may be in the making, and that a series of entire
government units like townships and unincorporated offices could be under
"Mergers like these will help to ensure that government is more
accountable, efficient and cheaper," Simpson said.