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Civil township

A civil township is a widely-used unit of local government in the United States, subordinate to a county. Specific responsibilities and the degree of autonomy vary based on each State. Civil townships are distinct from survey townships, but in states that have both, the boundaries usually coincide.

Township functions are generally attended to by a governing board (the name varies from state to state) and a clerk. Township officers frequently include Justice of the Peace, road commissioner, assessor, constable, and surveyors. In the 20th century many townships also added a Township Administrator or Supervisor to the officers as an executive for the board. In some cases townships run local libraries, senior citizen services, youth services, disabled citizen services, emergency assistance and cemetery services.

Table of contents
1 Central and Western States
2 Northeastern States
3 Southern States

Central and Western States

Most western states have only survey townships, such that all local government outside of incorporated municipalities is performed at the county level.

In the Great Lakes states, civil townships are overlaid on the survey townships. The degree to which these townships are functioning governmental entities varies from state to state and in some cases even within a state. (In Illinois, for example, townships in the northern part of the state are active in providing public services, such as roads, whereas townships in southern Illinois frequently abandon these services in favor of the county.) Civil townships in these states are generally not considered to be incorporated, and nearby cities may annex land in adjoining townships with relative ease. In Michigan, townships can incorporate to effectively form cities, these are called "charter townships" and have the same powers as cities.

Northeastern States

In New England and New York, the principal form of local government is the town, although survey townships are used in unorganized portions of Maine. Residents of these states do not generally recognize the word "township" as applying to their local governments.

In New Jersey and Pennsylvania, the township is a unit of local government responsible for services such as local road and street maintenance outside of towns or boroughs. These states have strong county government, and their state constitutions prohibit special legislation. Townships were established based on convenient geographical boundaries and vary in size from six to forty square miles (10-74 kmē).

Southern States

In the South, outside of cities there is generally no local government beyond the county. As these states were surveyed prior to the Northwest Ordinance, there are no survey townships, either.

See also: County, political science, List of subnational entities, minor civil division, unorganized territory