In a surprising decision Tuesday, a Denver judge ordered that U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Ferrigno Warren must be placed on the June 30 primary ballot, despite falling well short of the Colorado Secretary of State’s usual signature requirement.
“Ms. Ferrigno Warren has substantially complied with the Election Code’s signature threshold, distribution and validity requirements,” District Judge Christopher J. Baumann wrote at the end of a 28-page decision.
The Secretary of State’s Office has not decided whether to appeal the decision, according to a spokesman. The office has three days to decide.
Warren, a Democrat, turned in 5,383 valid signatures March 17, far fewer than the 10,500 — 1,500 from each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts — traditionally required for U.S. Senate candidates. She filed a lawsuit that same day, alleging the coronavirus pandemic unfairly stunted signature-gathering.
Baumann’s ruling explains, in detail, the hardships Warren, her paid signature-gatherers and her unpaid volunteers encountered while filling petition pages. Two dozen signature-gatherers quit after a possible coronavirus exposure, he wrote.
“This case shows the political process is not immune from the virus. Candidates, voters and government officials have encountered a primary election season unlike any other in our history,” Baumann wrote in his ruling.
“It is within these circumstances, and in light of the arguments presented by Ms. Ferrigno Warren and the Secretary (of State), that the Court concludes strict adherence to the signature requirement for primary petitions must yield to this unprecedented public health emergency,” the judge added.
If Baumann’s ruling stands, Ferrigno Warren will become the third candidate on the June 30 Democratic ballot, joining John Hickenlooper and Andrew Romanoff. It’s unclear if the ruling could also open the door to two other candidates, Diana Bray and Lorena Garcia, who fell short of the 10,500-signature requirement.
“Today’s ruling ensured that we are one step closer to giving Coloradans voting choices that are not just between the establishment and a career politician,” Warren said in a statement after the judge’s decision.
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