Is Rahm Emanuel really a Chicagoan? His mayoral race is challenged.

An election lawyer says Rahm Emanuel does not meet the residency rules requiring candidates to live in the municipality in which they seek office for at least a year before taking office.

Paul Beaty/AP
Former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel with his wife Amy and their children after announcing his candidacy for Mayor of Chicago at the John C. Coonley School Nov. 13, 2010.

Rahm Emanuel’s bid to be Chicago’s next mayor is being challenged on the grounds that he was twice listed as inactive on voter rolls during his time in Washington, making him illegible to run.

Burt Odelson, an Evergreen Park election lawyer, plans to file a challenge to the Chicago Election Board of Commissioners this coming week, saying Emanuel does not meet the state residency rules requiring all candidates to reside in the municipality in which they seek office for at least one year before taking office.

Mr. Odelson says Emanuel fails the residency test because he rented his home during his tenure in Washington as White House Chief of Staff, a position he resigned from in late September to run for mayor.

Odelson says election documents show Emanuel was first removed from the voter rolls twice in October 2009 because canvassing notices sent to Emanuel’s home were returned to the election board.

Odelson told the Chicago Tribune this week that Emanuel’s voter status was made active before the Feb. 2 election, allowing him to vote absentee using his Chicago address. He was then removed a second time from the voter rolls, a status that held until October when he registered using the address of a condo he is now renting.

The fact that Emanuel’s voting status was reinstated before the election without having to go through the process of showing the necessary documentation suggests he was made active illegally, Odelson said.

“By some magical means, which I think will come out after objections are filed, Emanuel was reinstated,” Odelson told the Tribune.

The deadline to file objections to petitions is Nov. 30.

The residency issue is a significant roadblock for Emanuel who faces a round of challengers who lack his name recognition and financial fortune. So far his campaign has confronted the challenge head-on, demanding that all candidates for the mayor’s office denounce the move against him to demonstrate they are not connected to Odelson.

To date, no candidate has stepped up to support Emanuel.

On Tuesday, Emanuel’s campaign issued a statement, saying “it appears that Rahm may have been briefly placed on inactive status while he was in Washington serving as the president's chief of staff. He continued to own a house in Chicago and it was always his clear intent to return.”

Illinois’ election laws worked in favor of President Obama and Emanuel in the past.

In his 1996 state Senate race, Mr. Obama successfully challenged the petitions of all four challengers, which helped remove them from the ballot, allowing him to run unopposed. Emanuel challenged the signatures of his opponent in the 2004 Democratic Party primary for a congressional seat. In that case, the ruling came down in favor of the opponent, but Emanuel won the election.

The issue continues to be brought up daily at campaign stops. At a plumbers union hall Friday, where he received the endorsement of the United Association of Plumbers and Pipe Fitters, Emanuel reiterated his Chicago credentials.

“I own a home in the city of Chicago, which I look forward to moving into soon,” he said. “My car is licensed here in the city of Chicago. I pay property taxes here in the city of Chicago. I vote in the city of Chicago. That's what's important.”

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