The Illinois Supreme Court has ordered a stay of yesterday’s appellate court decision that struck Rahm Emanuel’s name from the mayoral ballot — and not a moment too soon, as the NBC affiliate in Chicago explains. The city will print ballots today, which means that voters will see Emanuel’s name on the list even if he is later disqualified:
The Illinois Supreme Court has granted Rahm Emanuel’s stay. Which means he’s back on the ballot.
The NBC report says that the challenge to the US Supreme Court would have relied on a First Amendment argument for federal intervention. That seems like an unlikely strategy for a couple of reasons. First, there isn’t a free speech or free exercise of religion or political action involved in setting residency requirements for either voting or running for office. Second and more generally, federal courts like to give as much leeway as possible for states to set those requirements, and usually any interventions that do occur come through 14th Amendment due-process violations and not First Amendment issues.
The decision does give a hint that the state supreme court sees the possibility of overturning the appellate decision on residency. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have bothered with the stay. However, it’s a low-cost decision that leave all options open, and that makes a stay a bit of a no-brainer. The city can advise its voters that Emanuel has been disqualified if the court later upholds the decision, but without a stay, the city would have to reprint all of the ballots and delay the election if the court overturns it.
I’d guess that the court is going to lean towards leaving Emanuel on the ballot, and kick the question back to the legislature to more closely define residency in the future.
Update: The updated version of the story at the link has dropped the reference to a First Amendment challenge, still noting that Emanuel’s team planned to go to the US Supreme Court. Here’s video of Emanuel discussing the appeal today prior to the news: