UPDATED 12/23/10 5:50 p.m.

CHICAGO (CBS) — The Chicago Board of Election Commissioners has recommended that Rahm Emanuel’s name appear on the ballot for mayor.

The board made its ruling late Thursday morning, after a hearing officer presided over days of testimony in residency challenges to Emanuel’s candidacy.

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Earlier, hearing officer Joseph Morris recommended to the board that Emanuel’s name remain on the ballot. The Republican attorney said evidence shows Emanuel had no intention of terminating his residency in Chicago, and left the city only to work temporarily at the White House for President Barack Obama.

CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine reports Morris essentially ruled Emanuel has always been, and remains, a resident of Chicago when it comes to the right to vote and run for office. That residency is a legal status as opposed to a physical presence — a status Morris has ruled there is no indication he sought to change.

The three-member Board of Elections took action nearly 10 hours after Morris’ long-delayed opinion, which was released around 2 a.m. Thursday.

Morris’ ruling said, “The objectors failed to show that the candidate intended to effect any change on his residence or be anything other than a resident of Chicago,” and concluded that, “The name of Rahm Emanuel shall appear and be printed on the ballot.”

In his recommendation, Morris wrote that the question wasn’t whether Emanuel established residency in Illinois in 2010, but whether he abandoned it. Morris said he found no evidence that Emanuel had done so, arguing that “the touchstone of continued residence is the intention of the resident, and not the physical fact of `having a place to sleep.”‘

Morris also noted that Emanuel was born and married in Chicago, owns a home in the city where he still keeps valuable possessions, has an Illinois driver’s license and voted in Chicago in every election between 1999 and February 2010.

“The preponderance of this evidence establishes that the candidate never formed an intention to terminate his residence in Chicago; never formed an intention to establish his residence in Washington, D.C., or any place other than Chicago; and never formed an intention to change his residence,” Morris wrote.

Morris also pointed out in the 35-page ruling that “Illinois law expressly protects the residential status and electoral rights of Illinois residents who are called to serve the national government.”

Emanuel was pleased with the board’s decision.

“I think it reminds everybody of what the priorities are facing the city, which is about safer streets, strong schools and stable city finances,” Emanuel said as he worked the late-lunchtime crowd at the Berghoff on West Adams.

Opponents led by election attorney Burton Odelson had argued that Emanuel did not qualify for an exemption from the rule that candidates for mayor must live in the city for one year before an election. Odelson had argued that only military service qualified for an exemption from the rule.

 But even before the ink on that election panel’s order was dry, Odelson strode into Cook County Circuit Court, appeal in hand, ready for the next round. Court Clerk Dorothy Brown personally received his appeal of the board’s decision, which now goes before a judge.

 “Judges feel a little more secure in being able to go out on a limb and follow the law and not feel pressured by political considerations,” Odelson said.

The other objectors, still smarting from the board’s decision, were more blunt.

“It appears that Rahm Emanuel is above the law,” one of them said.

The case will likely go all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court.

Emanuel quit his job as Obama’s top aide and moved back to Chicago in October after Mayor Richard M. Daley announced he wouldn’t seek a seventh term. More than two dozen people quickly challenged Emanuel’s candidacy.

Emanuel is part of a crowded field of more than a dozen candidates, including former U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, former school board president Gery Chico, City Clerk Miguel del Valle and state Sen. Rev. James Meeks, the pastor of Salem Baptist Church on the city’s South Side.

Since returning to Chicago in October to run for mayor, Emanuel has enjoyed strong name recognition in the race and already has run several television ads. A recent Chicago Tribune/WGN poll showed Emanuel as the only candidate in double digits with more than 30 percent support, although 30 percent remained undecided.

Morris’ ruling came after a marathon three-day hearing last week in which Emanuel was grilled by a long parade of objectors to his candidacy, many of whom represented themselves and veered off into questions that had little to do with Emanuel’s place of residence.

(TM and © Copyright 2010 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS Radio and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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