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Editorial: Ruling a victory for democracy

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

Common sense and the law had a meeting of the minds Thursday. Rahm Emanuel is back on the ballot for mayor.

This is as it should be.

We were prepared, if the Illinois Supreme Court had ruled against Emanuel, to respect the decision and move on — not a word of foul play. For all the talk of political skulduggery, we recognized that reasonable lawyers and judges could and did disagree about Emanuel’s residency status, as defined by state law.

But we believe the proper approach to election law in a demo-cracy — and honestly, folks, that does include Chicago — is that legal interpretations should err on the side of inclusiveness.

To exclude Emanuel, to throw him off the ballot because he had the temerity to go to Washington to serve the president, would have been an outrage against this inclusive spirit of democracy. And, according to Thursday’s slap-down of the state Appellate Court’s Monday ruling, it would have tossed out 150 years of settled residency law.

We have defended Emanuel’s right to be on the ballot in two earlier editorials, leading some to question whether we would have so forcefully run to the defense of a less prominent candidate.

In truth, probably not, though the same legal and common-sense arguments would apply. But it is precisely because Emanuel is no also-ran in this election — polls show he is the favorite of almost half the voters — that ruling him off the ballot would have been a travesty.

Tens of thousands of voters effectively would have been disenfranchised.

Thursday’s decisive ruling was a victory for the voters, who deserve the right to decide for themselves who their next mayor will be.

Now let’s get back to what should be the real issues in this election — the quality of our schools, the safety of our neighborhoods, the soundness of our city’s finances.

Although, let’s admit it: This was a fascinating education.

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