Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels recently created the bipartisan Commission on Local Government Reform. In recent remarks, the Governor noted: “For its size and population, Indiana has far too much local government. Indiana has some 2,700 local units of government authorized to levy property taxes. Governing these units are more than 10,700 elected officials, 1,100 of whom assess property. Few other states have as much local government.”
Perhaps not; but there are more than 500,000 elected officials in the United States, 96 percent of whom serve in local governments. The remarks are correct insomuch as electoral density—the number of elected officials per capita or per governmental unit—varies greatly from place to place. The most electorally dense county has more than 20 times the average number of elected officials per capita.
How would we know whether Indiana or any other state has too many local governments or too few? What is the benchmark for deciding whether there too many elected officials in a jurisdiction or not enough?