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Democratic U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Ferrigno Warren speaks to a voter a senate forum held at Centennial Middle School in Montrose on Sunday Oct. 20, 2019. (William Woody, Special to the Colorado Sun)

The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday reversed a lower court’s ruling that allowed a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate to be on the June primary ballot, even though she hadn’t collected enough signatures to qualify.

Michelle Ferrigno Warren, a nonprofit leader, argued that she wasn’t able to gather the necessary number of signatures — 1,500 each from Democratic voters in Colorado’s seven congressional districts — because of the coronavirus outbreak.

District District Judge Christopher Baumann said that because Ferrigno Warren collected more than half of the 10,500 total signatures she needed, the candidate showed that she had significant support for her campaign and therefore should be placed on the primary ballot.

The Colorado Supreme Court unanimously disagreed with that reasoning.

“While we recognize that the circumstances that made signature collection
more difficult this year are unprecedented, we do not have the authority to rewrite the Election Code in response to the COVID-19 virus,” the court wrote in its decision. “… The Election Code’s minimum signature mandate requires strict compliance.”

MORE: Read The Colorado Supreme Court’s ruling.

Ferrigno Warren announced she was ending her campaign after the ruling came down. “While the ruling by the Colorado Supreme Court today was a disappointment, I will continue to do what I have done for years – fight for bold leadership that will level the playing field for our families to have an opportunity to succeed – no matter their gender, race, age, sexual orientation, or zip code,” she said in a statement.

The Colorado Supreme Court issued the ruling after Secretary of State Jena Griswold, a Democrat, challenged Baumann’s original decision in Ferrigno Warren’s case.

Ferrigno Warren blasted Griswold for appealing Baumann’s decision, accusing Griswold of cherry picking “who makes the ballot in the midst of a pandemic.”

The ruling could affect the outcome of another Democratic U.S. Senate candidate’s campaign.

Lorena Garcia, a community organizer, also failed to collect a sufficient number of signatures to be on the June primary ballot. She, too, argued that the coronavirus created an unreasonable burden and Baumann again ruled that Garcia should be allowed to participate in the primary because she collected more than half of the necessary signatures. 

Garcia’s campaign signaled they are continuing despite the ruling. It wasn’t immediately clear Monday afternoon if or how the decision in Ferrigno Warren’s case may apply to Garcia’s candidacy.

“Lorena Garcia is focused on her campaign and is on the ballot,” Meghan Dougherty, a spokeswoman for Garcia said in a written statement. “Garcia is moving forward and looking forward to the next phase.”

Griswold’s office has filed an appeal with the Colorado Supreme Court to Baumann’s ruling on Garcia’s candidacy.

Democratic candidate for Senate and executive director of the Colorado Statewide Parent Coalition Lorena Garcia speaks at Indivisible Denver’s candidate forum at Barnum Park in Denver on June 9, 2019. (Eric Lubbers, The Colorado Sun)

Already on the primary ballot are former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and former Colorado House Speaker Andrew Romanoff.

The winner of the June primary will face Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner in November. Gardner, who is in his first term, is considered one of the most vulnerable congressional Republicans up for reelection this year.

Updated at 8:45 a.m. on May 5, 2020: This story has been updated to reflect that Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold has filed an appeal with the Colorado Supreme Court challenging Denver District Court Judge Christopher Baumann’s ruling that she be placed on the June Democratic primary ballot for U.S. Senate.

Jesse Paul is a Denver-based political reporter and editor at The Colorado Sun, covering the state legislature, Congress and local politics. He is the author of The Unaffiliated newsletter and also occasionally fills in on breaking news coverage....