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In Baltimore's 12th District, there's a legal fight going on over which candidates will be on the ballot for November's general election for City Council.

Democrat Robert Stokes and Green Party candidate Ian Schlakman were already on the ballot following victories in their party primaries this spring. But two unaffiliated candidates — Frank W. Richardson and Dan Sparaco — also have joined after gathering hundreds of signatures from voters in the district, which runs through east and central Baltimore neighborhoods including Jonestown, Oliver, Charles Village and Remington.

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Sparaco's addition has prompted a legal dispute.

On Thursday, Schlakman and Richardson filed a federal lawsuit against the Maryland State Board of Elections, seeking an injunction to stop Sparaco's name from appearing on the ballot. Schlakman and Richardson allege Sparaco, a former city lawyer, missed the state's February filing deadline to run.

Sparaco, who filed to run in July, acknowledges he missed the state's deadline. He gained access to the ballot through his own federal lawsuit, which alleged that Maryland's February filing deadline was unconstitutionally too early.

"Maryland now has the earliest deadline in the nation, by far," Sparaco wrote in his suit. "This deadline change has the unconstitutional effect of benefiting major party nominees and disadvantaging unaffiliated candidates."

Sparaco said he agreed to drop his suit once State Board of Elections officials agreed to let him on the ballot if he gathered enough signatures. State Board of Elections administrator Linda Lamone declined to comment.

Schlakman and Richardson contend the state is violating its own rules by allowing Sparaco ballot access.

"Mr. Sparaco, a lawyer, was well aware of the deadline, but opted not to comply with it because he feared he would have to run against an incumbent," Susan L. Burke, the lawyer for Schlakman and Richardson, wrote in her suit. "After learning that the incumbent was not running, Mr. Sparaco sought to avoid the consequences of his intentional failure to file by bringing a lawsuit."

Said Sparaco: "By trying to get me off the ballot, they show that they are against choice, and against change, and don't understand the U.S. Constitution."

Sparaco and Richardson are among five unaffiliated candidates who gathered enough signatures from registered voters to get their names on the ballot for the November election. Others include: Sharon Black for City Council president; Nnamdi Scott for West Baltimore's 7th District City Council seat; and David Harding for North Baltimore's 14th District City Council seat.

Five unaffiliated candidates for various city races failed to gather enough signatures to make the ballot.

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