U.S. Rep. Doug Lamborn's name must be added to the Republican June primary ballot, and Secretary of State Wayne Williams can't enforce a state law requiring candidates' petition circulators to be Colorado residents, U.S. District Judge Philip Brimmer ruled Tuesday.
The ruling means Lamborn, a Colorado Springs Republican serving his sixth term in Congress, likely will face primary voters in June, though some legal obstacles could arise.
The Colorado Supreme Court had removed Lamborn from the ballot last week, ruling that he employed out-of-state circulators to gather some of the signatures on his nominating petition, contrary to state law.
So Lamborn filed a federal lawsuit, arguing that the residency requirement amounts to an unconstitutional restriction on the First Amendment rights of his supporters and asking to be restored to the ballot.
The judge agreed.
Brimmer cited a 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that said, "petition circulation is core political speech, because it involves interactive communication concerning political change," which means that "First Amendment protection for this activity is at its zenith."
"We believe it is time to move on from this issue," Lamborn campaign spokesman Dan Bayens said in a statement, "and we hope our opponents will end their legal maneuverings in an effort to disqualify Congressman Lamborn from the Republican primary.
"As we have said all along, we believe voters - not lawyers and judges - should decide the outcome of elections."
As soon as word of the ruling got out, however, a group of Republicans who unsuccessfully tried to intervene in the case said they will file an "immediate" appeal to block the moves in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals.
"We are disappointed that a federal judge chose to overrule the unanimous decision of the Colorado Supreme Court as well as overturn the will of the people of Colorado as expressed by their elected representatives," said Kyle Fisk, a spokesman for the group, which includes state Sen. Owen Hill, one of four Republicans challenging Lamborn in the primary.
The Secretary of State's Office was evaluating the ruling but was focused on "an election that fast approaches," said a statement by Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert.
Williams has until Wednesday to certify ballots and send them to county clerks. Mail ballots are supposed to be printed and in the mail to military and overseas voters on May 12 and are sent statewide during the first week of June.