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Judge keeps convicted former state Sen. Nathaniel Oaks' name on ballot

Former state Sen. Nathaniel Oaks sits in his seat in the rear of the Senate chamber on the first day of the 2018 legislative session at the State House.
Former state Sen. Nathaniel Oaks sits in his seat in the rear of the Senate chamber on the first day of the 2018 legislative session at the State House. (Barbara Haddock Taylor / Baltimore Sun)

An Anne Arundel County judge rejected an attempt by a group of Baltimore voters to remove the name of former state Sen. Nathaniel Oaks from the ballot after the Democrat pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges, the attorney general's office and lawyers for the voters said Friday.

Oaks faces prison time in the case but under state law he remains eligible to run until he is incarcerated. His sentencing isn't until July, after the June 26 Democratic primary election. The judge told the lawyers he was not authorized to remove Oaks' name because the long-time politician technically remains eligible.

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Time is drawing short to resolve the issue. The Maryland Board of Elections is scheduled to start printing ballots on Monday, so the voters' lawyers are scrambling for an alternative strategy.

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H. Mark Stichel, one of the attorneys, said he will be taking a three-step approach. First, his team plans to ask Oaks to remove his name from the voter rolls, which would disqualify him. Second, they'll ask the judge to tell the elections board not to start printing the ballots. And third, they'll ask the judge again to strike Oaks' name or take the case to the Court of Appeals.

For now, Stichel said, it's up to Oaks to make the first move.

"It's time for him to put his money where his mouth is," he said.

Oaks could not be reached for comment.

In court filings, lawyers for the election board said any change to the ballots after they're sent to the printer would be disruptive and expensive.

Oaks pleaded guilty to two federal felony charges in March and resigned his seat in the Senate. But by the time he did that, the deadline for removing his name from the ballot already had passed.

Two other candidates have filed to run in the district: Former teacher J.D. Merrill and former state Del. Jill P. Carter.

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