Disgraced Ex-Lawmaker Back on the Voter Rolls

Nathaniel T. Oaks, the disgraced ex-lawmaker from West Baltimore’s 41st District, has re-upped.


Oaks, who is awaiting sentencing on two federal felony charges to which he pleaded guilty in March, has again become a Maryland voter.


Armstead B.C. Jones, Sr., director of the Baltimore City Board of Elections, confirmed Tuesday that Oaks re-registered as a Maryland voter on June 4, the day before the state’s registration deadline. The Sun first reported that the ex-state senator had again registered to vote.

 Nathaniel T. Oaks

Oaks cancelled his Maryland voter registration April 23 at the request of lawyers representing three 41st District voters who had sued to have his name stripped from the ballot for the June 26 Democratic primary.


The Court of Appeals ruled May 2 that his name would remain on the 41st District ballot, even though he had pleaded guilty to the federal charges and withdrawn his voter registration, thus making himself ineligible, and therefore unqualified, to run for or hold office.


The high court’s decision meant that Oaks’s name will appear twice on the 41st District ballot, as a candidate for both the Maryland Senate and Baltimore City Democratic State Central Committee.


Oaks has said if he wins the primary election, he would not accept the nomination for Senate. In that case, the new 41st District Democratic State Central Committee, elected in the primary, would make the pick for the general election ballot, state officials have said.


In the Senate race, Oaks’s name will appear with two other Democrats vying for the seat, Jill P. Carter – who was appointed by Republican Gov. Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. to finish the last 8 1/2 months of his term — and J.D. Merrill, a relative political newcomer.


Supporters of Carter, a former member of the House of Delegates, wanted to see Oaks’s name removed because they fear that it will draw votes away from her and to the advantage of Merrill.


There is concern in the Carter camp that voters might be unaware of Oaks’s legal predicament and vote for him because his name is well known to them, as he has run for office in West Baltimore in eight previous elections.


Earlier, state officials had argued that Oaks was a qualified candidate at the time of a Feb. 27 primary election filing deadline, as well as at the subsequent withdraw and disqualification dates. As a result, they argued, there was nothing in Maryland law that allowed election officials to remove Oaks’s name from the ballot, given the circumstances, and timing, of his situation.


Under state law, he would only be deemed “unqualified” for office if he were dead, not a registered Maryland voter or imprisoned for a felony after being sentenced to prison by a judge.


Although Oaks, 71, was under indictment at the time of the February filing deadline, he did not plead guilty for another month 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.


Two hours before his March 29 plea, Oaks resigned his Maryland Senate seat. He is scheduled to be sentenced July 17, three weeks after the primary, by U.S. District Judge Richard D. Bennett in Baltimore.

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William F. Zorzi
Bill Zorzi was a Baltimore Sun reporter and editor for nearly 20 years, focusing on government and politics. An Annapolis bureau veteran, he wrote a weekly column, “The Political Game” for the paper.Zorzi and another former Sun reporter, David Simon, are longtime collaborators on acclaimed television projects, including the HBO series, “The Wire,” and the HBO miniseries “Show Me a Hero,” which dealt with an explosive housing desegregation case in Yonkers, NY.


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