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Emanuel Ballot Appeal to Be Heard by Illinois Supreme Court

Rahm Emanuel
Rahm Emanuel, former White House chief of staff. Photographer: Tim Boyle/Bloomberg

Rahm Emanuel, President Barack Obama’s former chief of staff, won an expedited review by the Illinois Supreme Court of his disqualification from Chicago’s Feb. 22 mayoral election.

The high court also ordered the city’s election officials to include Emanuel’s name as it started to print ballots yesterday. The third-largest U.S. city begins early voting Jan. 31 for a successor to Mayor Richard M. Daley.

“The emergency motion by petitioner Rahm Emanuel to expedite consideration of the petition for leave to appeal is allowed,” the court wrote, stating that it would only consider briefs filed in the appellate court. “Oral argument will not be entertained.”

Earlier yesterday, the court granted a stay that put on hold the printing of ballots without Emanuel’s name.

“The Board of Elections is directed that if any ballots are printed while this Court is considering this case, the ballots should include the name of petitioner Rahm Emanuel as a candidate for Mayor of the City of Chicago,” the court wrote.

Emanuel’s attorneys had argued that the ruling by an Illinois Appellate Court panel was overly broad and would disqualify other city residents such as Obama, congressmen and even business travelers.

“An individual whose company assigns him to work for a month on a special project in New York would presumably fail this standard because he would not have ‘actually resided’ in Chicago during the full year,” the appeal stated.

Residency Question

The appellate court panel ruled 2-1 Jan. 24 that Emanuel “unquestionably does not satisfy” a requirement that candidates reside in Chicago for one year prior to the election. Emanuel and his family moved to Washington in early 2009 and rented out their home after he took the job in the Obama administration.

The Supreme Court decision prompted election officials to call their ballot printer at about noon Chicago time to stop the presses.

“We didn’t have to shout it, but we said it into a phone,” said Jim Allen, a spokesman for the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

The estimated 282,000 ballots printed by then will be “isolated and secured,” Allen said. A new press run was started with Emanuel’s name added and about 300,000 new ballots were to be printed by the end of yesterday.

‘Stop the Presses’

Asked what will happen if the court rules Emanuel’s name should be removed, Allen said, “We’ll get to yell ‘stop the presses’ again.”

The election board will print about 2 million ballots for the election.

“This is an important first step in ensuring that voters are not disenfranchised and that they ultimately get to choose the next Mayor of Chicago,” Ben LaBolt, a spokesman for the Emanuel campaign, said in a statement after the Supreme Court put the appellate ruling on hold.

Emanuel has said he always intended to come back to Chicago. At a hearing in December, he cited china, photo albums and a wedding dress that he and his wife stored at the house when they moved to Washington.

Race Upended

The Illinois Appellate Court decision upended the race to lead the city by disqualifying Emanuel. Backed by Obama and another former boss, President Bill Clinton, he had a 23 percentage-point lead in the latest poll and a campaign treasury four times fuller than his closest opponent’s.

The appellate court revived the “political issue of whether Emanuel is a real Chicagoan,” said Dick Simpson, a political science professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “There have always been questions for the voters whether Rahm is, since he grew up in the suburbs and spent a lot of time in Washington.”

Valerie Jarrett, a fellow Chicagoan and senior adviser to Obama, said yesterday from the White House that the president backs Emanuel’s qualifications to run for mayor.

“He believes that he’s eligible,” she said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” program. “He thinks Rahm would make a terrific mayor.”

Emanuel sought to maintain his campaign’s legitimacy yesterday by announcing his endorsement by Teamsters Joint Council 25, which has 30,000 members in Chicago.

‘Playing Games’

“In light of yesterday’s attempt to remove our candidate from the ballot, the Teamsters want to pledge our full support to Rahm Emanuel and the validity of his candidacy,” said John T. Coli, the union’s president, speaking of the Jan. 24 appellate court ruling. “The courts should not be playing games with what the majority of Chicagoans obviously want.”

Emanuel declined to say whether he will pursue a case at the federal level if he fails in state court. Emanuel also declined to say whether he will consider a write-in campaign -- a moot point if the high court deems him ineligible.

“I’m confident in the argument we’re making about the fact that I never lost my residency,” he said at a produce market and warehouse on the city’s southwest side. “Working for President Obama, as his chief of staff, at his request, does not mean I gave up my residency.”

One Illinois legal expert noted that the residency requirement at issue dates to the state’s 1818 constitution.

Illinois Tradition

“We didn’t want nobody that nobody sent,” said Ann Lousin, a professor at Chicago’s John Marshall Law School. “This has been a tradition in Illinois.”

The appellate court’s distinction between requirements for voting and candidacy were “a little bit convoluted,” said David Franklin, a DePaul University law professor.

“It seems much more straightforward to me to say the basic legal concept of residency is the same,” Franklin said.

The field of candidates also includes City Clerk Miguel del Valle, former Chicago school board president Gery Chico and former U.S. Senator Carol Moseley Braun. Chico’s campaign announced yesterday in a statement that he has won the endorsement of the Chicago firefighters union.

State Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke may need to decide whether to recuse herself because of her husband’s endorsement of Chico, Simpson said. The judge is married to Chicago Alderman Ed Burke, chairman of the council’s finance committee.

There’s no role for the federal courts because it doesn’t raise federal constitutional issues, said Dawn Clark Netsch, a professor emeritus at Northwestern University Law School and former Illinois state senator.

Residency Requirement

The city’s elections board ruled last month that Emanuel met the requirement of having lived in Chicago for one year before the election. That decision was confirmed by the Cook County Circuit Court.

Emanuel was approaching the majority of support he would need to avoid an April 5 runoff after next month’s first round, according to a WGN-TV/Chicago Tribune poll released Jan. 20. He had the support of 44 percent of those surveyed.

Braun had 21 percent support and Chico 16 percent, with del Valle at 7 percent and 9 percent undecided. The poll of 708 likely registered voters had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.7 percentage points.

Braun said she was extending “a hand of friendship to all the fine Chicagoans who have been supporting Rahm and all those that haven’t made up their minds yet.”

Emanuel raised $10.6 million through Jan. 19 for his campaign, disclosure records show. Chico, 54, has raised $2.8 million so far, his campaign said in a news release. Braun, 63, raised $445,760, her filing with the Illinois State Board of Elections showed.

Policeman’s Question

Burton Odelson, the lawyer representing the plaintiffs in the case, said he was motivated by his clients, attorney Walter Maksym and Thomas McMahon, whom he said had a 30-year career in the Chicago Police Department.

“You have to live in the city in order to be a policeman, a fireman, a teacher, a sanitation worker,” Odelson said. “Why isn’t the same rule applicable to people who want to run for office? Well, it is.”

Even if Emanuel’s name remains on the ballot, the appellate ruling might leave some voters thinking that “there must be something to it,” said Alan Gitelson, a political science professor at Loyola University Chicago.

“All the attention over the days or weeks ahead is going to focus on whether he is a viable resident,” he said, “rather than a viable candidate.”

The case is Maksym v. Board of Election Commissioners of the City of Chicago, 2010-coel-020, Illinois Appellate Court.

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