The Illinois Supreme Court has decided to keep former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel on the ballot for the Chicago mayor's race. With a unanimous 7-0 vote, the state Supreme Court overturned an appellate court ruling and opined that Emanuel, the frontrunner in the race, is indeed a Chicago resident.
Both the Chicago Board of Elections and a Cook County judge had supported Emanuel's qualifications for office, but the race drew national scrutiny this week as questions arose over Emanuel's residency. Chicago requires that all mayoral candidates be residents of the city in the year before the elections. Emanuel, working at his high-profile job in Washington for the year, had not physically lived in the city, and had rented out his Chicago home. But the elected state Supreme Court ruled that according to legal precedent, Emanuel's intent to return to Chicago was enough to keep his eligibility.
"This is a situation in which, not only did the candidate testify that his intent was not to abandon his Chicago residence, his acts fully support and confirm that intent," the Illinois Supreme Court's opinion states. "The candidate told several friends that he intended to serve as Chief of Staff for no more than 18 months or two years before returning to Chicago. The candidate has continued to own and pay property taxes on the Chicago residence while only renting in Washington, D.C."
Though the timing of the appellate court's decision on Monday, which came just as ballots began printing, raised eyebrows, Dick Simpson, an expert on Chicago politics at the University of Illinois-Chicago, dismisses the idea that any foul play was involved. A challenge to Emanuel's residency couldn't be filed until he declared his candidacy, and according to Simpson, the challenge was done as quickly as possible on the part of his opponents. So not to delay the election, the Supreme Court expedited their decision based on oral arguments and testimony presented before previous courts.
Since residency requirements differ state by state, Simpson also says that the case won't have much of an effect outside Illinois. However, the ruling could carry implications for public servants in the city, such as law enforcement officers, who have been required to reside within Chicago city limits.
The mayoral election is scheduled for Feb. 22, but early voting begins on Monday.