Illinois Supreme Court: Rahm Emanuel Can Run For Mayor

Late today, the Illinois Supreme Court issued an opinion reversing Monday’s Appellate Court decision and holding that Rahm Emanuel can run for Mayor of Chicago:

The Illinois Supreme Court ruled today that Rahm Emanuel can stay on the ballot for mayor of Chicago.

The decision comes without a moment to spare; early voting for the Feb. 22 city election begins Monday, Jan. 31.


The high court’s decision reverses a 2-1 Illinois Appeals Court decision Monday that ruled Emanuel ineligible on the grounds he did not meet the requirement of being a Chicago resident for a year before the election. Emanuel returned to Chicago last fall to run for mayor after serving as White House chief of staff to President Barack Obama.

The Chicago election board and a Cook County Circuit judge had earlier both ruled Emanuel met the residency requirements. The Supreme Court said the appellate court was in error in overrulling them.

“So there will be no mistake, let us be entirely clear,” the Supreme Court wrote in its ruling today. “This court’s decision is based on the following and only on the following: (1) what it means to be a resident for election purposes was clearly established long ago, and Illinois law has been consistent on the matter since at least the 19th Century; (2) the novel standard adopted by the appellate court majority is without any foundation in Illinois law; (3) the Board’s factual findings were not against the manifest weight of the evidence; and (4) the Board’s decision was not clearly erroneous.”

Emanuel has enjoyed a wide lead over three other major candidates in two Tribune polls.

Here’s the opinion, a quick read of which shows the Supreme Court pretty much eviscerating the Appellate Court majority:

Illinois Supreme Court Decision In Rahm Emanuel Case

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, US Politics, , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. EddieInCA says:

    A 7-0 reversal usually means “Um.. You guys REALLY screwed up.”

  2. Kylopod says:

    I have no idea who I’d vote for if I lived in Chicago. But the attempt to get him thrown off the ballot was so outrageous that I’ll feel disappointed if he isn’t nominated at this point. It would be a triumph of dirty politics.

  3. mantis says:

    I think he’s got it pretty well locked up. The question is can he avoid a runoff? I think there’s a good chance of that.

  4. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    My faith in Chicago politics has been renewed. For a minute there I thought the rule of law was going to reign supreme.

  5. floyd says:

    If you lived in Chicago, you’d know it wouldn’t matter who you voted for!

  6. Trumwill says:

    My faith in Chicago politics has been renewed. For a minute there I thought the rule of law was going to reign supreme.

    The decision demonstrated that the standard being applied to Emanuel (voter ID, driver’s license, possessions left behind) is the same standard used for candidate qualification generally and historically. It was the lower court’s reasoning that attempted to redefine the rules and set a new standard of eligibility.

  7. James Joyner says:

    @Patrick and @Will:

    The Illinois Supreme Court couldn’t have been more clear: There were zero basis in state law for declaring him ineligible. He’d maintained a residence in Chicago, was registered to vote there, and carried a state drivers’ license.

    The only reason he didn’t actually reside there was that he was representing the area in Congress and then serving as chief of staff to the President of the United States. We have never considered people who serve in political office to have vacated their residency.

  8. Patrick T. McGuire says:

    ” He’d maintained a residence in Chicago, was registered to vote there, and carried a state drivers’ license.

    The only reason he didn’t actually reside there …”

    He maintained a residence but didn’t actually reside there???

    And the applicable law says that you have to physically live there, not maintain a residence for the purpose of voting.

    I stand by my original position on this matter.

  9. PD Shaw says:

    James: The Illinois Supreme Court did not all agree that there was zero basis for the Appellate Court’s decision. From the special concurrence:

    “Suffice it to say, therefore, that this court has not always spoken clearly on what is meant by residency, and the majority should acknowledge this fact. This is why both sides in this dispute can contend that their respective positions are supported by decades of precedent. Indeed, contrary to the majority’s assertions, the only thing that is well established in this case is the confusion that has existed on this subject. The majority today now makes clear that residency for all purposes is the equivalent of domicile. The majority, therefore, should overrule those portions of Pope, Park, and Clark which hold to the contrary.”

    “It is for this reason that the tone taken by the majority today is unfortunate. Because our own case law was, until today, unclear, it is unfair of the majority to state that the appellate court majority “toss[ed] out 150 years of settled residency law” (slip op. at 10), adopted a “previously unheard-of test for residency” (slip op. 17), or was engaged in a “mysterious” analysis (slip op. at 16). In order to properly address the parties’ arguments, the appellate court had to reconcile this court’s conflicting pronouncements on the question of residency. That court did the best it could without the benefit of a supreme court opinion which clarified the standards. By refusing to acknowledge the role our own case law has played in creating the dispute before us, the majority unwittingly adds credence to the inflammatory statements contained in the dissenting opinion below.”

  10. PD Shaw says:

    Trumwill, the same standard has not always been applied in Illinois. There was a soldier that came back from Iraq and was thrown off the ballot because he had not “resided in” the district for a year. The law was changed to prevent that in the future for military deployments.