Township government, the oldest form of government continuing to function today, began in North America in 1636.  It was started by the early Americans who wanted to escape from the autocratic governments of Europe.  Established as a pure democratic process, the people have a direct voice in this grassroots government.  This began at the Annual Town Meetings where people from surrounding areas came together to discuss important issues and establish laws.   Today townships continue to hold Annual Town Meetings on the second Tuesday in April.

In Illinois, township government began in 1849.  The Illinois Constitution of 1848 allowed voters in each county to choose to establish township governments or a county commission form of government, without township units.  Today, 85 of the 102 counties in Illinois operate under the township form of government, there are currently 1,433 townships in the state serving more than 8 million people.

Townships are individual geographic areas, separate from cities and counties.  For example, a large city may contain several townships, while one township may encompass several small towns.  Township government operates at local levels and is designed to serve the basic needs of the community.  In many rural areas, townships are the only unit of government available to provide social services and road maintenance.