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Countdown to Rahmageddon: What Now?

By Kevin Robinson in News on Jan 25, 2011 1:30PM

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast

Chicago Board of Elections spokesman Jim Allen told the AP late Monday that two million ballots will be printed without Rahm Emanuel's name on them. He says ballots are already being proofed and could begin printing today. Allen said that they waited for the appellate court's ruling to place the order, which will be handled by Lake County Press in Waukegan. Board of Election Chairman Langdon Neal said in a conference call with the press that “ink will hit the paper” this morning.

Absentee ballots will be printed first, but the order for the two million ballots has already been placed. Printing ballots will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, although early voting is set to begin next Monday and electronic voting machines will be used, which means that they can be reprogrammed if Emanuel's name should wind up back on the ballot. “We’ll make adjustments…we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it,” Neal said.

"I have no doubt at the end we'll prevail in this effort," Emanuel told the Tribune at a news conference. “We’ll now go to the next level to get clarity." Emanuel's legal team has asked the state Supreme Court to prevent the Chicago Board of Elections from printing the ballots without his name on them. “We’ve basically hit the go button,” Allen told the Tribune. “We needed to do this on the 18th, we were waiting for this decision. We going to press now, we have to.”

Unless the state Supreme Court agrees to an emergency stay and then hears the case and rules in short order, Emanuel has two options: run a campaign that's based entirely on absentee ballots, which have been available since January 13, and presumably have his name on them, or run a write-in campaign.

In the event that Emanuel's name is not on the ballots, he has until February 15 to file as a write-in candidate. Emanuel could take a page from Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski's playbook. Murkowski successfully beat Tea Party-backed Republican nominee Joe Miller in last year's midterm elections after she was defeated in the GOP primary. Regardless, that may not address Emanuel's residency issue. According to Ken Menzel, a legal counsel with the Illinois State Board of Elections, "We don't have a challenge process for write-in candidates in Illinois," he told the Atlantic. "You can't prevent a person from being a write-in candidate." Because the basis of the challenge is that Emanuel isn't eligible to hold the office - and not a question of if he's eligible to run - "I think you're getting into uncharted waters if you get into a write-in campaign," Menzel said. "This is the sort of thing that perhaps, if he were to try, we'd see some case-law made."

So, "He could mount a write-in campaign," Chicago attorney and election law expert Michael Dorf said. But the almost certain legal challenges that would follow would mean that "he can't be sworn in." We'll know more in the coming days what Emanuel will do, and what the courts will say, if anything, regarding the issue.