Breaking: Court boots Rahm off ballot

With just four weeks to go and a commanding lead over his rivals on the ballot, Rahm Emanuel appeared to be coasting to a victory in Chicago’s mayoral race.  Today, though, an appellate court threw a monkey wrench into the works, overturning both the Chicago Board of Elections and a Cook County judge to order Emanuel off of the ballot:

Rahm Emanuel was thrown off the ballot for mayor of Chicago today by an appellate court panel, a stunning blow to the fund-raising leader in the race.

An appellate panel ruled 2-1 that Emanuel did not meet the residency standard to run for mayor.

Appellate judges Thomas Hoffman and Shelvin Louise Marie Hall ruled against Emanuel. Justice Bertina Lampkin voted in favor of keeping President Obama’s former chief of staff on the Feb. 22 ballot.

Initial word was that the vote on the three-judge panel in Illinois was 237 to 126.  I kid, I kid …

This puts the Emanuel campaign in serious danger of disqualification.  They can appeal to the Supreme Court, but the election takes place four weeks from tomorrow.  Presumably the Supreme Court would expedite its review, and the success of that will hinge on the appellate court’s reasoning for overturning the ruling of Lampkin, the fact-finder at the district court level.  Emanuel’s team says it will use the dissenting opinion on this decision to craft its appeal.

Emanuel’s not the only one in limbo.  With just four weeks to go, the ballots are almost certainly printed and ready[see update II below], and one assumes that absentee voters already have theirs in hand.  Will Chicago voters, both above and below ground, press forward with the poll leader Emanuel and hope that the court won’t throw out an election result?  Or will they decide that they’d better start looking at their second choice candidates now?

Update: Decision and dissent can be found here.  The decision is fairly straightforward: moving out of the city to take a job elsewhere means your physical residence has changed, whether or not one rents out one’s house to someone else.  The dissenting jurist says physical presence isn’t the issue, but the intent to return at some point in time is what matters:

The Board’s ruling–that the candidate in 2009 and 2010 did not abandon his status as a resident of Chicago and, thus, remained a resident of Chicago even though he was largely absent from this city from January 2009 until October 1, 2010–was not clearly erroneous.  Intent is an issue of fact (Delk, 112 Ill. App. 3d at 738), and the majority acknowledges that the Board’s fact findings were not against the manifest weight of the evidence.  This acknowledgment should have ended this case, and resulted in this court affirming the circuit court’s judgment, which confirmed the Board’s ruling that the preponderance of the evidence established that the candidate never formed an intent to either change or terminate his residence in Chicago, or establish his residence in Washington, D.C., or any place other than Chicago.

Because the candidate had established his Chicago residency, it is presumed to continue until the contrary is shown, and the burden of proof is on the person who claims that there has been a change.

Er, okay, but the change was patently obvious.  Emanuel moved to Washington DC and stayed there for 21 months, only returning when Richard Daley announced he wouldn’t seek another term.  Under that definition, the statute becomes essentially meaningless; anyone who lived in Chicago for any period of time could return and run for office on the shortest of notice and dare anyone to prove that returning wasn’t the intent all along.  The majority ruled that the legislature intended this requirement to apply to physical residence — which makes sense, because one wants a mayor who’s actually familiar with the city’s issues.

Update II: The Sun-Times reports that the ballots have not yet been printed:

The Board of Elections has not yet printed up the ballot.

Odelson said Board of Elections attorney Jim Scanlon told him that as of this moment, Emanuel’s name would stay off the ballot.