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Emanuel back on ballot – for now

Mayoral candidate former White House Chief Staff Rahm Emanuel speaks reporters during campaign stop bowling alley January 24 2011 Chicago.

Mayoral candidate and former White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel speaks to reporters during a campaign stop at a bowling alley January 24, 2011 in Chicago.

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Updated: April 30, 2011 4:46AM

The Illinois Supreme Court threw mayoral candidate Rahm Emanuel at least a temporary lifeline Tuesday, agreeing to hear his appeal of the Appellate Court order knocking him off the ballot.

Chicago Board of Elections Chairman Langdon Neal called the Waukegan company that began printing the city’s election ballots Tuesday and literally told them “Stop the presses!”

Based on Monday’s ruling by the state Appellate Court that Emanuel did not meet the state’s one-year residency requirement to run for mayor, the board had removed Emanuel’s name from the ballot. On Tuesday, after the state Supreme Court stayed the Appellate Court’s order, the board added Emanuel’s name back on the ballot and resumed printing.

“Almost 300,000 [of the two million total] ballots had actually already been printed,” Neal said. “Now, they’re re-formatting the ballot to include the name of Rahm Emanuel on the ballot and that printing will then begin again.”

Emanuel, shaking hands at an “L” stop downtown Tuesday night, said he was glad his name was back on the ballot and repeated his mantra that Chicago voters ought to have the right to vote for him.

“Fifty-five percent of the Teamsters have spoken and said that they want Rahm Emanuel as their next mayor, and I don’t think we should let two appellate court judges decide otherwise,” Teamsters President John Coli said to cheers from dozens of muscular union members at Panama Bananas on the Southwest Side Tuesday as the union endorsed Emanuel.

Speaking an hour later at his West Town headquarters, Emanuel rival City Clerk Miguel del Valle suggested voters not risk voting for Emanuel, who might ultimately be thrown off the ballot.

“My advice to those voters is to consider the candidates who have resided in Chicago for at least a year — actually living here continuously for 12 months,” del Valle said with a smile.

The Supreme Court said it will not accept any new legal briefs or even hear oral arguments on the case. Instead, the court will rely on the briefs already filed. That indicates the seven judges of the state Supreme Court want to move quickly to give voters a final answer as early voting is scheduled to begin Monday.

Emanuel was asked three times if he agreed that the Supreme Court of Illinois was the last stop for this question of state law or if a ruling against him would prompt him to take his case to the federal courts.

“First it’s got to go to the Supreme Court,” was all he would say.

Asked if he would ask state Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke to recuse herself from the case because her husband has endorsed Emanuel rival Gery Chico, Emanuel said he would leave it up to the justices to decide how they handle the case.

Last month, on the recommendation of Justice Charles Freeman, the Supreme Court appointed the wife of Emanuel’s lead attorney Mike Kasper to a vacancy on the Cook County Circuit Court. But none of the attorneys on either side is asking Freeman to recuse himself either.

The justices are in their respective corners of the state but regularly confer with each other by conference call.

With one month until election day and the board already a week behind schedule, Neal said he’s relieved that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case on an expedited basis.

Early voting begins Monday at 51 locations across the city. That won’t be impacted by the uncertainty, since early voting is done by touch-screens that can be re-programmed quickly.

But early voters who are firmly in Emanuel’s camp were advised to wait to make certain he’s on the ballot.

“There are no do-overs. Once you vote, that’s it. So, you have 18 days to vote during the early voting process. If the voters have any questions, any doubt, any uncertainty, I would encourage them to wait until the end of the 18 days,” Neal said.

Once the election board gets past the current crisis, Neal said it might be time to re-examine the very tight election calendar. That includes the dates when nominating petitions can be circulated and the deadlines when they must be filed. There were more than 400 challenges to candidates who wanted to run for office in the upcoming election; the challenges all need to be resolved by the board.

“This year, with 425 cases, we were under tremendous stress. The fact that it is now Jan. 25 and there are still 16 cases pending — one citywide and 15 aldermanic cases — is stressful to the agency which actually has to administer the election,” he said.

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