The Rahm problem

Cite this Article
Larry Ribstein, The Rahm problem, Truth on the Market (January 25, 2011),

This is a little off-topic, but it’s about Chicago, my home town.  I haven’t lived there for 35 years, but I have family there, favorite restaurants, and go there a lot.  I am currently away on government service (teaching at a state university).  But I couldn’t vote or run for office there, even if I wanted to.

Anyway, you can probably tell I’m warming up to talk about Rahm Emanuel.  The Illinois appellate court has opined that he hasn’t resided there for the last year, and so must be excluded from the ballot despite raising $11 million or so. 

The WSJ has its own opinion:  “[W]e don’t think Mr. Emanuel should be penalized, or Chicago voters denied the chance to vote for him, because he chose to serve his country.” 

Excuse me, but could I be forgiven for thinking that a career politician’s decision to serve as the president’s chief of staff does not exactly make him Pat Tillman?

Let’s try another solution:  the law.  The majority opinion in the appellate court makes a pretty good case that (1) even if Emanuel’s a legal resident for voting purposes he has not physically resided in Chicago for the last year, as the statute arguably requires of candidates; and (2) the exception for service to the US applies only to voters and not candidates.  (The dissent’s best argument is that there’s no clear statutory standard for physical residence.  But even Emanuel would have to admit he didn’t physically reside in Chicago for the last year whatever the standard is.)

So the Democrats have their own Bush v. Gore.  Once again we’ll learn what laws are for.   Sometimes even the WSJ needs to be reminded.

(Full disclosure:  Carol Moseley Braun, Emanuel’s closest competitor, is an old friend and law school classmate and I contributed to her Senatorial campaign. But she has had nothing to do with this post.)

Update:  The Illinois appellate court ruling was stayed by the supreme court for purpose of hearing an appeal.  Also, see election law expert Rick Hasen’s Slate criticism of the appellate court’s decision.  Although Hasen’s the expert, I am not persuaded because I don’t think Hasen adequately addresses the key distinction the court made between legal residence and physical domicile, or the appellate court’s policy rationale for distinguishing candidates and voters.  Not that these fine distinctions will matter to the Illinois supremes.