DENVER (CN) – A federal judge on Tuesday ordered Colorado’s secretary of state to certify a congressman’s petition to appear on the Republican Party’s primary ballot in June, despite the lawmaker’s illegal use of signature-gatherers who don’t live in the state.
“Defendant Wayne W. Williams shall certify Douglas Lamborn to the 2018 Republican primary ballot for the Fifth Congressional District unless, for reasons other than the residency requirement discussed in this order, he does not qualify,” U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer wrote in his 25-page order that runs contrary to a ruling on the matter issued by the Colorado Supreme Court.
A week ago, the Colorado Supreme Court pulled the Republican incumbent from the ballot after finding Lamborn used two nonresident signature-gatherers to get him on the state’s primary election ballot. Colorado law requires candidate petition circulators to be state residents.
Lamborn then sued in federal court challenging the constitutionality of the requirement. Petition circulator Ryan Tipple, who worked on Lamborn’s campaign, and five voters whose signatures were thrown out along with the petition joined Lamborn’s lawsuit.
Lamborn asked Brimmer for a rare preliminary injunction to allow him to appear on the Republican Party primary ballot.
Arguing for the Colorado secretary of state at a hearing Monday, attorney Matthew Grove said allowing Lamborn to appear on the ballot was unfair to would-be candidates, including attorney general candidate Brad Levin. Levin also fell short of qualifying for the ballot because he used Tipple to collect signatures.
Nevertheless, Brimmer discerned “no such possible deleterious effect on the secretary’s signature verification system, which appears to be working efficiently and effectively.”
Brimmer rejected the idea of Lamborn running as a write-in candidate, since no write-in Republican candidate has ever succeeded in the state’s primary elections. Additionally, the 269 voters who signed Tipple’s petition would lose their chance to vote for their chosen candidate in the primary election, the judge said.
“We are extremely pleased that the judge ruled in our favor and has ensured that Congressman Lamborn’s name will appear on the primary ballot,” campaign spokesman Dan Bayens said. “Consistent with court rulings here in Colorado and around the country, the federal court agreed that the part of Colorado election law that requires petition collectors to be state residents is unconstitutional and unduly infringes on the First Amendment rights of voters and petition circulators,”
Although Brimmer said the residency of Lamborn’s petitioners can’t disqualify him from the ballot, attorney Scott Gessler with Klenda, Gessler & Blue has made other claims on behalf of several 5th District voters.
“We have consistently argued that the affiliated voter requirement and circulator affidavit fraud committed by Ryan Tipple are just such state law grounds to disqualify Lamborn from the ballot. We have appealed and maintain the position even after this ruling that Lamborn should not be on the ballot,” said Klenda, Gessler & Blue spokesman Kyle Fisk. “It is undisputed that Lamborn’s circulators committed fraud. They illegally registered to vote when they weren’t residents of Colorado. And then they lied about their residency on their circulator affidavits.”
For Lamborn, qualifying for the ballot came down to the 269 signatures gathered by Tipple. At first glance, the state voter database showed Tipple was registered as a Republican in the state. But concerned voters represented Gessler pointed out that Tipple currently resides in California.
In court Monday, Lamborn’s attorney Ryan Call of Hale Westfall argued the state’s residency requirement, which has been on the books since 1980, doesn’t prevent fraud, but eases the bureaucratic process.
Exhausting all of his options, Lamborn also filed a petition with Denver County court late last Friday asking for a review of 112 other signatures invalidated by Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams. District Judge Jay Grant dismissed the request Tuesday.
State Sen. Owen Hill, who is running against Lamborn to represent the Fifth District for the Republican Party attempted to obtain a writ of mandamus from the 10th Circuit on Monday to intervene in the case. His petition was promptly dismissed.
As the ink dried on Lamborn’s preliminary injunction, Gessler appealed to the 10th Circuit on behalf of Hill and the Fifth District voters who raised the original of issue Lamborn’s petition with the state.
Primary ballot certification will happen Wednesday and Lamborn’s team is ready to begin their real campaign.
“We believe it is time to move on from this issue, and we hope our opponents will end their legal maneuverings in an effort to disqualify Congressman Lamborn from the Republican primary,” Bayens, of Lamborn’s campaign, said. “As we have said all along, we believe voters – not lawyers and judges – should decide the outcome of elections.”