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The state of Michigan is largely divided in the same way as many other U.S. states, but is distinct in its usage of charter townships. Michigan ranks 13th among the fifty states in terms of the number of local governmental entities.

The state is divided into 83 counties, and further divided into 1,242 townships, 274 cities, and 259 villages. Additionally, the state consists of 553 school districts, 57 intermediate school districts, 14 planning and development regions, and over 300 special districts and authorities.[1]


Nuvola single chevron right Main article: County

Michigan is divided into 83 counties, the primary administrative division of Michigan. This local government division has its greatest effect on unincorporated lands within the county, and can provide service which can include law enforcement, road maintenance and construction, justice administration, health care, among other basic services. Where places within the county are incorporated, and thus granted home rule, the power of the county government is greatly diminished.

The government of the state's counties is largely structured as county commissions, which function as both the executive and legislative body of the county. However, three Michigan counties function under a county executive form of government, where the executive and legislative powers are split between a county executive and county commission, respectively. These three counties include Bay County, Oakland County, and Wayne County. As of 2006, Macomb County, one of the largest counties in the nation not to have an county executive form of government, is seeking this form of government for itself.[2]

Wayne County is the only county in the state to have adopted a Home Rule Charter. All other counties are structured according to state law.


Nuvola single chevron right Main article: City

In Michigan, a city is one type of incorporated municipality and one of the four principal types of local governments. Of the four types of municipal organization, cities are the most autonomous, with the responsibility of providing most all services to its residents. As of 2007, there are 274 incorporated, home rule cities in Michigan.[1]

Most cities in Michigan are incorporated under home rule charters, although there are a few that were incorporated before the Home Rule Cities Act was enacted in 1909, and continue to operate under an older city charter having been granted by the legislature. Under current Michigan law, however, they are automatically considered home rule cities, and can amend or revise their charters at any time.

Cities have a choice to be governed under the mayor-council form of government, which also includes the city commission form of government as a variant, or a council manager form of government.


Nuvola single chevron right Main article: Village

In Michigan, villages function much like cities, but differ in that villages are not completely administratively autonomous of the township(s) in which they are located, reducing their home rule powers. Village government are required to share some of the responsibilities to their residents with the township. As of 2007, there are 259 villages in Michigan, of which 48 are designated home rule villages, and 211 designated as general law villages.[3] However, under the Michigan Constitution of 1963, any village has the authority to modify its charter, whether granted as a home rule charter or enacted as a general law charter.[4]


In Michigan, a township is a statutory unit of local government, meaning that they have only those powers expressly provided or fairly implied by state law. They are the most basic form of local government in Michigan. There are two types of townships in Michigan: general law and charter, and they total 1,242 in number.[5]

General law townshipEdit

Nuvola single chevron right Main article: General law township

General law townships, called civil townships in most other states, form the largest portion of townships in Michigan. These local government units offer the most basic of services, and generally follow the boundary lines of survey townships. In sparsely populated areas of Northern Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, a township may consist of several survey townships and cover hundreds of square miles.

Charter townshipEdit

Nuvola single chevron right Main article: Charter township

Charter township are, unlike general law townships, an incorporated municipality and this status was created by act of the state legislature in 1947, and grants additional powers and streamlined administration of townships. Charter townships that meet certain criteria are also provided greater protection against annexation by a city or village. Townships must meet have at least 2,000 residents before they can seek charter status. If the charter status is approved by the township voters, the township may levy up to 5 mills without voter approval. If the charter status is approved by the township board alone, the township board may not levy any additional millage without voter approval. As of April 2001, there were 127 charter townships in Michigan.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Michigan's System of Local Government, Michigan Manual 2005-2006, Chapter VIII, Introduction, pp. 715-718. Accessed 2007-05-15.
  2. "Macomb races to finish executive report" by Chad Selweski, The Macomb Daily Online Edition, Published December 5, 2006. Accessed 2007-05-15.
  3. Michigan Municipal League
  4. Michigan Constitution of 1963, Article VII, § 22, Effective Jan. 1, 1964. Accessed 2007-05-15.
  5. Michigan Accessed 2007-05-15

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