Monday, January 24, 2011

Shocker: Illinois Appellate Court Tosses Rahm Emanuel From Chicago Mayoral Ballot

A hearing officer, the Chicago Board of Elections and a trial court all ruled Rahm Emanuel could remain a candidate on the Chicago mayoral ballot despite a contention from his primary opponents he could not satisfy the one-year residency requirement for being a candidate for mayor because he rented out his home in Chicago at which he was a registered voter while he served as President Barack Obama's Chief of Staff in Washington. Today, an appellate court disagreed with the earlier rulings and declared Emanuel ineligible to be on the ballot. The Chicago Tribune reports on this stunning development:

Rahm Emanuel should not appear on the Feb. 22 mayoral ballot, according to a ruling issued by a state appellate court today.

In a 2-1 ruling, the appellate panel said Emanuel does not meet the residency requirement of having lived in Chicago for a year prior to the election. The judges reversed a decision by the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, which had unanimously agreed that Emanuel was eligible to run for mayor. (Read the ruling here.)

"We conclude that the candidate neither meets the Municipal Code's requirement that he have 'resided in' Chicago for the year preceding the election in which he seeks to participate nor falls within any exception to the requirement," the majority judges wrote.

"Accordingly, we disagree with the Board's conclusion that he is eligible to run for the office of Mayor of the City of Chicago. We reverse the circuit court's judgment confirming the Board's decision, set aside the Board's decision and ... order that the candidate's name be excluded (or, if necessary, removed) from the ballot."

The majority opinion was written by Appellate Justice Thomas E. Hoffman and concurred with by Presiding Appellate Justice Shelvin Louise Marie Hall.

Appellate Justice Bertina E. Lampkin wrote a dissenting opinion.

"I disagree with the majority's contrary conclusion that the candidate is not eligible to be on the ballot because that conclusion is based on an analysis of two issues --- establishing residency and a statutory exemption to the residency requirement --- that are not relevant to the resolution of this case."

Emanuel's campaign has not commented on the ruling, but previously both sides in the case said they planned to appeal the case all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Time is of the essence, however. Early voting starts a week from today on Jan. 31.

I would anticipate that the Illinois Supreme Court, which is Democratic-controlled, will reverse the appellate court; however, I never thought the Democratic-controlled appellate panel would toss Emanuel from the ballot. Emanuel is heavily favored in the race according to public opinion polls and has raised $12 million so far for his campaign, far more than any of his opponents. Here's a copy of the ruling. An interesting nuance raised by the majority opinion is a distinction between Emanuel's eligibility to vote in Chicago elections versus his right to be a candidate for public office. The court agreed he could legally vote in Chicago elections while working in his federal job in Washington, but the one-year residency requirement prevented him from being a candidate for office. "We agree with the candidate that his service constituted 'business of the United States' and thus that this exception applies to him," the majority ruled. "We disagree, however, with his position that the exception saves his candidacy. In our view, the exception embodied by section 3-2 of the Election Code applies only to voter residency requirements, not to candidate residency requirements."

UPDATE: The Chicago Tribune and Sun-Times have both been working overtime to ensure Emanuel's election by doing all they can to discredit his opponents while overlooking his long record of corruption in Chicago politics. Not surprisingly, the Sun-Times' editors quickly editorialized against today's appellate court ruling, accusing the appellate court panel of disenfranchising Chicago voters, a view they didn't hold when Barack Obama systematically got every single one of his primary opponents knocked off the Illinois Democratic primary ballot through legal maneuverings when he first ran for the state senate so he could walk into office without competition.

The truest words issued by an Illinois Appellate Court Justice on Monday were these:

Striking Rahm Emanuel’s name from the ballot for mayor of Chicago unfairly “disenfranchises … every voter in Chicago who would consider voting for him.”

Unfortunately, Justice Bertina E. Lampkin wrote those words in a dissent of the court’s majority opinion, which did indeed rule Emanuel off the ballot.

Emanuel may be far ahead in the race for mayor in every poll.

He may be a true Chicagoan by every common-sense definition.

He may have relocated to Washington only temporarily and only to serve his country, as chief of staff to President Obama.

But if this ruling stands, two appellate court justices, employing a rather narrow reading of state law and city ordinance, will have decided that you, the voters, cannot choose Emanuel to be your next mayor — tough luck, folks.

We can only hope that the Illinois Supreme Court will order an injunction keeping Emanuel’s name on the ballot and then reverse the lower court’s decision as soon as possible. Early voting for the Feb. 22 election begins Monday.

It would be particularly shameful — and fuel a few conspiracy theories — if the high court declined to even review the case.

As Lumpkin also wrote, “An opinion of such wide-ranging import and not based on established law but, rather, the whims of two judges, should not be allowed to stand.”

Inexplicably, however, the Appellate Court majority also declined Monday to certify this case for immediate review by the Supreme Court, apparently not deeming it a matter of great enough importance.

Now Emanuel’s lawyers must petition the high court themselves, a time-consuming process, while the clock ticks.

Let us be clear: The issue here is not who would be the best mayor of Chicago. At least half of all potential voters, according to a recent poll, think that would be somebody other than Emanuel. The issue is whether Emanuel fulfills the residency requirements, as set down in the law, to be on the ballot.

The appellate court majority — Justices Thomas Hoffman and Shelvin Louise Marie Hall — read the law as saying Emanuale is eligible to vote in the mayoral election, but has not “resided in” town long enough to be a candidate. It is a pinched interpretation of the law — strict constructionist to the max — that ignores the lawmakers’ obvious intent.

And it ignores Emanuel’s obvious intent.

We prefer the logic of the Chicago Board of Election and the Cook County circuit court that Emanuel self-evidently never intended to terminate his legal residency in Chicago and never did.

He had established his residency long before 2009, and it was his challengers’ burden to prove he had abandoned the city — something they never convincingly did.
The Chicago Tribune chimes in with its own editorial blistering the two judges who tossed Emanuel from the ballot:

With startling arrogance and audaciously twisted reasoning, two appellate judges ignored more than 100 years of legal precedent, invented a new definition of "residency" and ordered Rahm Emanuel off the Feb. 22 mayoral ballot.
Some are questioning whether Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke should recuse herself from participating in the case Emanuel's attorneys plan to file because her husband, Chicago Alderman Ed Burke, supports one of Emanuel's opponents, Gery Chico, whose attorneys challenged Emanuel's eligibility. Emanuel's attorney Mike Kasper, tells The Capitol Fax Blog's Rich Miller he won't make a request Burke recuse herself. There is also a debate brewing over whether Emanuel could launch a write-in campaign for mayor if he is kept off the ballot. As it stands now, the Chicago Board of Elections plans to begin printing ballots for the election as soon as tomorrow without Emanuel's name on it. It delayed the printing before now in awaiting today's decision. Because the appellate court did not certify the case for automatic appeal to the state's supreme court, it will take longer for Emanuel's attorneys to get their case before that court. Emanuel's attorneys will no doubt seek a stay of the appellate court's order pending their appeal. There is no assurance the court will even take the case on appeal; it could let the appellate court ruling stand, particularly since there is no conflicting rulings at the appellate level according to one elections law expert. If Burke recused herself from the case, one elections attorney thinks it will be more difficult to get enough votes to overturn the appellate ruling because at least one Republican justice would have to join the remaining Democrats in that event.


varangianguard said...


Still, you're right. On to the Illinois State Supreme court. I imagine they will find a way to hear it and rule before time runs out.

Indy4U2C said...

The Illinois Appellates did what was right.

(now if we had an Indiana appellate court that would do what is right...and not corrupt.)

martha tuohy said...