The Colorado Secretary of State’s Office is asking the state Supreme Court to overturn a Denver judge’s order that would place U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Ferrigno Warren on the June 30 Democratic primary ballot.
U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Ferrigno Warren speaks during a forum held at the Durango Public Library in Durango on Sept. 7, 2019.
In a surprising decision Tuesday, District Judge Christopher J. Baumann ruled Ferrigno Warren should be on the ballot, despite turning in 5,383 valid signatures March 17, far fewer than the 10,500 — or 1,500 from each of Colorado’s seven congressional districts — traditionally required for U.S. Senate candidates.
The hardships of collecting signatures during a pandemic and statewide stay-at-home order justified a break from the secretary of state’s requirement, Baumann ruled. The Secretary of State’s Office, represented by Assistant Attorney General Emily Buckley, believes Baumann’s ruling was inequitable and unjust.
“Stretching the substantial compliance standard so far as to allow a candidate who fell so short of the mark to access the primary election ballot is unfair to candidates who earned such access through full compliance with the election code, as well as those who fell short but chose not to pursue litigation to circumvent Colorado’s ballot access requirements,” Buckley wrote to the Colorado Supreme Court.
The Secretary of State’s Office, led by Democrat Jena Griswold, said in a statement to reporters that it recognizes the challenges coronavirus posed on candidates but wants courts to apply a uniform and fair standard to all candidates.
“That’s why the Secretary of State’s Office is appealing the Ferrigno Warren District Court case. Given the gravity of this decision, the Colorado Supreme Court should have the opportunity to weigh in and we hope it will issue a uniform standard that can be applied to all similar cases,” said Betsy Hart, a spokeswoman for the Secretary of State’s Office.
The office is asking the Colorado Supreme Court to approve what it calls “a discount-rate formula” it created for determining signature sufficiency. The mathematical formula would cut candidates some slack for lost days during the stay-at-home order, but not lower the threshold as dramatically as Baumann did. Warren would not qualify for the June 30 ballot under this proposed formula.
Warren’s campaign contends that Baumann created a fair, uniform standard when he wrote that “a 50% threshold is a reasonable line to draw in this particular case.” Warren collected slightly more than 50% of the 10,500 signatures she needed.
Warren criticized Griswold’s decision to appeal the ruling, calling it “undemocratic,” but said she’s confident the Colorado Supreme Court will agree with Baumann.
“It’s very telling the Colorado secretary of state waited until the late hours of Friday night to release this appeal,” Warren said in a news release. “This reeks of D.C-style politics and everything wrong with our government. The role of the Colorado secretary of state is to oversee fair and just elections and empower voters at the voting booth, not cherry pick who makes the ballot in the midst of a pandemic.”
What the Colorado Supreme Court does in this case will shape June 30 primary ballots. Before Baumann’s ruling, only two Democratic U.S. Senate candidates qualified to be on the ballot: John Hickenlooper and Andrew Romanoff.
A ruling in Warren’s favor would not only place her on the Democratic ballot but likely allow two other candidates, Lorena Garcia and Diana Bray, to be on the ballot as well. Garcia and Bray also fell short of the 10,500-signature threshold and have taken or plan to take similar legal actions in Denver District Court.
This content was originally published here.