CHICAGO — The Illinois Supreme Court today ordered election officials not to print any mayoral ballots without Rahm Emanuel’s name while the justices consider whether to hear an appeal from the former White House chief of staff.

Emanuel has asked the court to overturn a lower ruling that threw him off the ballot because he had not lived in the city for a year. His attorneys called Monday’s decision “squarely inconsistent” with previous rulings on the issue.

The high court’s order appeared to buy some time for Emanuel. The Chicago Board of Elections had said it would begin printing ballots without his name as early as Tuesday, with the election less than a month away. Absentee ballots were to be sent out within days.

Messages left for election officials were not immediately returned.

There was also no immediate word on whether the high court would hear Emanuel’s appeal or when the justices would decide whether to accept it.

“I’m confident in the argument we’re making about the fact that I never lost my residency,” Emanuel said today at a campaign stop where he picked up an endorsement from the Teamsters Joint Council.

In their appeal, Emanuel’s attorneys called Monday’s ruling “one of the most far-reaching election law rulings” ever issued in Illinois, not only because of its effect on the mayoral race but for “the unprecedented restriction” it puts on future candidates.

His lawyers raise several points, including that the appeals court applied a stricter definition of “residency” than the one used for voters. They say Illinois courts have never required candidates to be physically present in the state to seek office there.

By adopting this new requirement, the court rejected state law allowing people to keep their residence in Illinois even if they are away doing work for the state or federal government, the appeal said.

Emanuel, a former congressman who represented Chicago, was gone while he served as President Barack Obama’s chief of staff for nearly two years.

Just hours after Monday’s ruling, the campaign to replace retiring Mayor Richard M. Daley began to look like an actual race.

For months, three of the main candidates struggled for attention while Emanuel outpolled and outraised them, blanketed the airwaves with television ads and gained the endorsement of former President Bill Clinton, who came to town to campaign for Emanuel.

Former Sen. Carol Moseley Braun, city Clerk Miguel del Valle and former Chicago schools chief Gery Chico suddenly found themselves in the spotlight – and trying to win over Emanuel supporters who suddenly may be up for grabs.

In their 2-1 ruling Monday overturning a lower court decision, the appellate justices said Emanuel met the requirements to vote in Chicago but not to run for mayor because he had been living in Washington.

Challengers to Emanuel’s candidacy argued the Democrat did not qualify because he rented out his Chicago home and moved his family to Washington to work for President Barack Obama for nearly two years. Emanuel – who quit his job and moved back to Chicago in October after Daley announced he would not to seek a seventh term – has said he always intended to return to Chicago and was living in Washington at the president’s request.

Emanuel’s lawyers promptly asked the state’s highest court to stop the appellate ruling and hear an appeal as soon as possible. Lawyers also asked the court to tell Chicago election officials to keep his name on the ballot if it starts to print them.

Appellate litigation attorney Christopher Keleher said it’s likely the court would rule against Emanuel.

“I can tell you from experience that getting a reversal from any Supreme Court is difficult – even more so when you’ve got a truncated time frame,” Keleher said.

But Emanuel said he was forging ahead.

“I have no doubt that we will in the end prevail at this effort. This is just one turn in the road,” Emanuel said Monday, adding that the “people of the city of Chicago deserve the right to make the decision on who they want to be their next mayor.”