Cook County Voters Choose to Merge Clerk, Recorder of Deeds Offices

In a time of budget shortfalls and rising taxes, about two-thirds of voters have chosen to cut costs by consolidating the Cook County Clerk’s Office with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds.

It was one of two binding referenda on the ballot with significant implications, and both got the voters' thumbs up.

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The Cook County Clerk's office keeps birth, marriage and death records, calculates property tax rates, and maintains County Board records and ethics filings. The recorder's office keeps property records, tracks liens, collects transfer taxes and stores veterans' discharge records.

Proponents believe it could save between $800,000 and $2 million a year. Opponents questioned the amount of that savings and argued that it’s a drop in the county’s $5 billion budget bucket.

But this referendum, which appears on the surface to be fairly straightforward, became a contentious racial issue. Cook County Commissioner Richard Boykin, a Democrat from Oak Park, said his constituents see the consolidation as “an all-out attack on black elected officials.” Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough, of Maywood, is African-American. Cook County Clerk David Orr is white.

The Cook County Board voted 10-5 to put the referendum on the ballot and all five African-American commissioners voted against it.  

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