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.

Susannah Kay, Special to The Denver Post

U.S. Senate candidate Michelle Ferrigno Warren speaks during a forum held at the Durango Public Library in Durango on Sept. 7, 2019.

“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.