Oaks Cancels Voter Registration Hoping to Have Name Removed From Ballot

Attorneys asked an Anne Arundel County Circuit judge on Monday to reconsider ordering Maryland election officials to remove Nathaniel T. Oaks’ name from a primary election ballot, after the disgraced ex-lawmaker canceled his voter registration earlier in the day.
For now, the motion to reconsider, filed electronically late Monday afternoon, keeps alive the question of whether Oaks’ name will be removed from the 41st District ballots, even as Maryland State Board of Elections officials press ahead with the complicated process of printing the ballots.

Judge Glenn L. Klavans refused Friday to order the state elections officials to remove Oaks’ name from the June 26 Democratic primary election ballot for the 41st District because he technically was still a qualified candidate by virtue of being a registered voter.
  Nathaniel T. Oaks Klavans denied a request by lawyers representing three registered voters in the district to have Oaks’ name taken off the ballot, citing the fact that although the former legislator had pleaded guilty March 29 to two federal felony counts, he remained a qualified voter.
In ruling from the bench, however, Klavans held out the possibility that he might have ruled differently, had Oaks not been a qualified candidate.

“If he was disqualified, I believe the interest of the voters in District 41 … to avoid the potential of being … disenfranchised is quite important,” Klavans said Friday. “Casting a meaningless vote … for a disqualified candidate … would be a mistake.”
 That was enough of an opening that lawyers for the plaintiffs, H. Mark Stichel and Elizabeth A. Harlan, worked all weekend to secure a commitment from Oaks, via his federal public defender, Lucius T. Outlaw III, that he would withdraw his voter registration Monday.
It was unclear late Monday how soon an Anne Arundel Circuit judge would take up the time-sensitive case, or if it would be sent back to Klavans for reconsideration.

Other than death, only two factors would disqualify Oaks as a voter, and thus, as a candidate – withdrawing his own state voter registration or entering prison after a court-ordered sentence for a felony conviction. The former state senator is not scheduled to be sentenced until July 17 on the federal charges, three weeks after the primary.

Oaks, who has said he does not want to appear on the ballot and signed an affidavit to that effect that is filed in both Anne Arundel Circuit Court and U.S. District Court, opted Monday for officially removing his name from the Maryland voter rolls.

He filed a written request with Armstead B. Jones Sr., director of the Baltimore City Board of Elections, asking that his name be removed from the voter registration files “to facilitate removal of my name from election ballot.”

A copy of the city election board’s “Voter Profile Report,” filed with the motion for reconsideration Monday, shows Oaks’ status as “cancelled” because of “voter request.”

A Maryland election official testified Friday that while removing the name is still possible, though not easy, the risk of a mistake in the state’s voting systems would be greatly increased. Natasha D. Walker, project manager of election management for the state board, explained to the court in great detail the involved process for printing 747 different configurations of the primary ballot for use at polling places statewide.

Andrea W. Trento, an assistant attorney general for the election board, had argued that there is nothing in Maryland law that allows election officials to remove Oaks’ name from the ballot, given the circumstances – and timing – of the ex-lawmaker’s situation.

Unless a judge were to order Oaks’ name removed, it will appear twice on the 41st District ballot – as a candidate for both the Maryland Senate and Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee – because he was qualified at the time of the state’s Feb. 27 primary election filing deadline and the subsequent withdraw and disqualification dates.

Although Oaks, 71, was under indictment at the filing deadline, he did not plead guilty until more than a month later to two charges of wire fraud and honest services wire fraud stemming from a federal political corruption probe in which he took $15,300 in bribes from an FBI undercover source.

He resigned his Maryland Senate seat just two hours before pleading guilty in Baltimore before U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett, who will sentence him this summer.

Oaks is still a member of the 41st District Democratic State Central Committee, although since withdrawing his voter registration Monday, he technically is not a qualified to hold the post, under the party’s bylaws.

Late last week, the Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee formally requested the Maryland Democratic Party oust him from his seat for “malfeasance in office,” sending along petitions demanding Oaks’ removal.

Oaks’ name appears on the 41st District ballot with two other Democrats vying for the Senate seat, Jill P. Carter and J.D. Merrill. It also appears in a second spot with 23 other candidates for the seven-member 41st District Democratic State Central Committee.

Supporters of Carter, in particular, would like to see Oaks’ name removed, fearing that inclusion of his name on the ballot will draw votes away from her and give Merrill an advantage in the primary.

Stichel – who represents Nancy Lord Lewin, Elinor G. “Ellie” Mitchell and Christopher R. Ervin in the ballot case — filed affidavits signed by Carter and Merrill, saying that they, as the other state Senate candidates, did not have any objections to having Oaks’ name struck from the ballot.
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