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Editorial: Rahm ruling a disservice to voters

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



The truest words issued by an Illinois Appellate Court Justice on Monday were these:

Striking Rahm Emanuel’s name from the ballot for mayor of Chicago unfairly “disenfranchises … every voter in Chicago who would consider voting for him.”

Unfortunately, Justice Bertina E. Lampkin wrote those words in a dissent of the court’s majority opinion, which did indeed rule Emanuel off the ballot.

Emanuel may be far ahead in the race for mayor in every poll.

He may be a true Chicagoan by every common-sense definition.

He may have relocated to Washington only temporarily and only to serve his country, as chief of staff to President Obama.

But if this ruling stands, two appellate court justices, employing a rather narrow reading of state law, will have decided that you, the voters, cannot choose Emanuel to be your next mayor — tough luck, folks.

We can only hope that the Illinois Supreme Court will order an injunction keeping Emanuel’s name on the ballot and then reverse the lower court’s decision as soon as possible. Early voting for the Feb. 22 election begins Monday.

It would be particularly shameful — and fuel a few conspiracy theories — if the high court declined to even review the case.

As Lampkin also wrote, “An opinion of such wide-ranging import and not based on established law but, rather, the whims of two judges, should not be allowed to stand.”

Inexplicably, however, the Appellate Court majority also declined Monday to certify this case for immediate review by the Supreme Court, apparently not deeming it a matter of great enough importance.

Now Emanuel’s lawyers must petition the high court themselves, a time-consuming process, while the clock ticks.

Let us be clear: The issue here is not who would be the best mayor of Chicago. At least half of all potential voters, according to a recent poll, think that would be somebody other than Emanuel. The issue is whether Emanuel fulfills the residency requirements, as set down in the law, to be on the ballot.

The appellate court majority — Justices Thomas Hoffman and Shelvin Louise Marie Hall — read the law as saying Emanuel is eligible to vote in the mayoral election but has not “resided in” town long enough to be a candidate. It is a pinched interpretation of the law — strict constructionist to the max — that ignores the lawmakers’ obvious intent.

And it ignores Emanuel’s obvious intent.

We prefer the logic of the Chicago Board of Election and the Cook County circuit court that Emanuel self-evidently never intended to terminate his legal residency in Chicago and never did.

He had established his residency long before 2009, and it was his challengers’ burden to prove he had abandoned the city — something they never convincingly did.



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