The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in a 5-2 decision that disgraced Sen. Nathaniel Oaks, who in March pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges, must remain on the ballot for the June 26 primary election for the Maryland State Senate seat in the 41st District.
An injunction in the Circuit Court of Anne Arundel County to remove his name, which Oaks himself supports, must be dismissed, the court ruled.
Judges Michele D. Hotten and Shirley M. Watts dissented. A full opinion from the state’s highest court will be issued at a later date.
H. Mark Stichel, an attorney representing 41st District residents Amalie Ward, Nancy Lord Lewin and Christopher Ervin, said in a statement given to Baltimore Fishbowl that he and co-counsel Elizabeth Harden are “disappointed by the Court’s decision.”
“But, we are heartened that two judges of the Court, Judges Watts and Hotten dissented by the Court’s decision. We look forward to reading the Court’s full opinion and the dissent(s).
“We hope that the case has raised awareness in Legislative District 41 that any vote cast for Mr. Oaks on the primary election ballot is a wasted vote. We also hope that the General Assembly next year will consider changes to the Election Law to address issues that we raised in the case.”
As The Sun‘s Ian Duncan reported, lawyers representing the State Board of Elections argued removing Oaks’ name would disrupt the voting process and raise a number of questions since Oaks filed for re-election under state guidelines.
In an earlier decision, a lower court refused to remove his name, Duncan reported, and the only way it could have been taken off is if Oaks had been sentenced to jail–a decision that won’t come until after the primary. Oaks then surrendered his voter registration in an attempt to nullify his own campaign, causing the judge to reverse his decision.
But the state election board had already begun printing ballots.
Linda H. Lamone, the state administrator of elections, wrote in an email to Baltimore Fishbowl, “We are pleased with the decision so we can continue our preparation for the election.”
Two Democratic challengers are running for Oaks’ seat: Jill P. Carter, a former member of the House of Delegates and the current director of Office of Civil Rights and Wage Enforcement, and J.D. Merrill, a former administrator for Baltimore City Public Schools who is also former Gov. Martin O’Malley’s son-in-law.
On Monday, Gov. Larry Hogan appointed Carter to the seat, which she will hold until the general election in November, regardless of the outcome of the primary.
In a Facebook post earlier today, Carter’s campaign directed supporters to a live stream of today’s proceedings, and quoted the Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge who said, “The harm to the voters far outweighed any inconvenience to the Board.”
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