With Chicago election officials printing mayoral ballots that include Rahm Emanuel's name, it's up to the Illinois Supreme Court to decide whether voters will actually see him among their choices during next month's election.
The state's highest court agreed Tuesday to decide whether Emanuel can run for mayor, and the justices ordered election officials not to print any ballots without his name until they can rule.
The action bought valuable time for the former White House chief of staff, who a day earlier was kicked off the ballot by an appeals court because he didn't live in the city for a year before the Feb. 22 election. The state Supreme Court said it would expedite the matter but gave no specific time frame.
With less than a week to go before the first early ballots are cast, a number of potential scenarios loomed, including the possibility that Emanuel would have to resort to a write-in campaign or wage a desperate bid to take the matter to federal court.
Emanuel, who had been the heavy favorite to lead the nation's third-largest city, pressed ahead with confidence and said he was doubling his campaign by adding more stops to his already busy schedule.
"I am clear that I think that we will succeed because of the thoroughness of our argument," he said Tuesday at an event where he received an endorsement from the Teamsters. He said he was "more determined to see this through so the people have a right to make the choice for themselves."
Until October, the former Chicago congressman had been living in Washington working for President Barack Obama.
The high court was to review legal briefs and would not hold oral arguments, a sign the justices want to decide the case quickly.
That plan is "absolutely a reflection that they understand the tightness of the time schedule," said Dawn Clark Netsch, a professor emeritus at Northwestern University's law school.
Chicago election officials said they had printed nearly 300,000 ballots without Emanuel's name before they abruptly stopped. The Board of Elections had hurriedly authorized the printing after Monday's appellate ruling.
"Things are changing in an unprecedented fashion," board chairman Langdon Neal said.
If the Supreme Court does not put Emanuel back on the ballot, he could consider a write-in campaign. He would have to declare himself a write-in candidate by Feb. 15.
Emanuel has declined to say whether he would entertain such a drastic step. He also has refused to say whether he would consider other legal remedies, such as finding a way to get his case into the federal courts, possibly all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
But Netsch said there was little chance the matter could make the leap to federal court.
"In my judgment there is no significant federal constitutional issue," she said.
In their appeal to the high court, Emanuel's attorneys called Monday's ruling "one of the most far-reaching election law rulings" ever issued in Illinois, not only because of its effect on the mayoral race but for "the unprecedented restriction" it puts on future candidates.
His lawyers raised several points, including that the appeals court applied a stricter definition of "residency" than the one used for voters. They say Illinois courts have never required candidates to be physically present in the state to seek office there.
By adopting this new requirement, the court rejected state law allowing people to keep their residence in Illinois even if they are away doing work for the state or federal government, the appeal said.
The new standard also sets a "significant limitation on ballot access" that denies voters the right to choose certain candidates, the appeal said.
John Coli, president of the Teamsters Joint Council 25 that endorsed Emanuel, said the two appellate judges who threw Emanuel off the ballot were "subverting democracy." He called the opinion "ridiculous."
"I believe that the law's on Rahm's side in this case," said Coli, who is also an attorney.
In a dissent filed Monday, appellate court Judge Bertina Lampkin pointed out that Emanuel never voted in Washington, didn't change his driver's license, didn't buy property and didn't do his personal banking in Washington.
"How many days may a person stay away from his home before the majority would decide he no longer 'actually resides' in it? Would the majority have us pick a number out of a hat?" she wrote.
In the wake of Monday's ruling, other main candidates in the race — former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, city Clerk Miguel del Valle and former Chicago schools chief Gery Chico — moved quickly to try to win over Emanuel supporters.
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