Rahm for Resident! Why the Former Chief of Staff Will Be on the Ballot in Chicago


emanuelJames Taranto reports: Will Rahm Emanuel be the next mayor of Chicago? All signs point to yes: The Chicago Sun Times notes that the Illinois Supreme Court this afternoon stayed a lower-court decision holding the former congressman and White House chief of staff ineligible. That means ballots will be printed with Emanuel’s name while the state high court deals with his appeal.To be sure, even Mayor Carol Moseley Braun would be preferable to a repeat of what happened in New Jersey in 2002, when that state’s Supreme Court simply cast aside the Garden State’s election law and allowed the Democrats to replace scandal-plagued incumbent Sen. Bob Torricelli with former senator Frank Lautenberg.

But it looks to us as though the law is on Emanuel’s side. Time magazine explains the rationale for the lower court’s ruling:

The Appellate court decision stunned attorney Burt Odelson, who led the case of those who objected to Emanuel’s candidacy because they believe he does not satisfy residency rules. “I thought from Day 1 we’re going to lose most of the way up,” he told Time. But, he added, “I knew I had something when Justice [Thomas] Hoffman asked Emanuel’s lawyers ‘If you lived in Chicago for 10 years and moved to Rockford are you are still a resident of Chicago?’ and Emanuel’s lawyers said, ‘Yes, if you intend to come back.’ ” That seemed to echo the Illinois Municipal Code that Odelson had used in argument, saying that it mandated that anyone running for mayor must have “resided in” Chicago for the one year preceding the February 22, 2011 mayoral election and only allows exemptions for those who have served in military action.

Time notes that Emanuel is basing his argument on the Illinois Election Code, which provides that “no elector”–meaning voter–“shall be deemed to have lost his or her residence in any precinct or election district in this State by reason of his or her absence on business of the United States.”

A conflict of laws? It would appear not. The relevant Municipal Code provision reads: “A person is not eligible for an elective municipal office unless that person is a qualified elector of the municipality and has resided in the municipality at least one year next preceding the election or appointment.’

Since Emanuel was in Washington “on business of the United States,” he is still a qualified elector and a resident of Chicago under the Election Code. The Municipal Code’s residency requirement is not a separate one from the Election Code’s, but an additional requirement pertaining to the duration of residence–one that Emanuel obviously meets, since he was away “on business of the United States” for more than a year.

The Municipal Code’s additional exemption for military service, however, got us to thinking: Maybe Emanuel could argue in the alternative that engagement in Beltway political combat is analogous to going off to war. It wouldn’t be his strongest claim, but it might help put an end to all the prissy exhortations for more civility in politics.

{Wall Street Journal/Matzav.com}


  1. It seems that to run for office you need to be a qualified elector (voter) AND have resided in municipality for a year. So there is no stira, rather the criteria for holding office are (and should be) stricter than being a voter.

  2. Time concludes that because Emanuel is a qualified elector, he satisfies the residency requirement. But under the Municipal Code, these are two distinct requirements connected with the word “and.” A candidate must be *both* x & y — a qualified elector *and* a resident for the past year. Since Emanuel has not been a resident of Chicago for the past year, he’s ineligible to run for mayor. It may be unfair, especially given the election code, but it is what it is, and Emanuel’s out-a-luck, and Time once again got it wrong.

  3. Of course he is eligible! When one goes to college, are they a resident of that state? When one accepts a job in Saudi Arabia for a few months from Exxon, are they a resident of that state? How many of us vote by absentee ballot EVEN when we have a permanent (not a job at the White House) address in another town/city? Rahm is a Chicago resident. What is the problem here?


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