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Incumbent GOP Rep. Lamborn Off Colorado Ballot?

Colorado’s state Supreme Court ruled Monday that GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn cannot appear on the primary ballot in his district due to a problem with his ballot petitions.

The court ruled that a petition gatherer working for Lamborn’s campaign did not live in the state at the time, rendering the signatures he gathered invalid and moving Lamborn below the threshold for ballot access in his Doug Lambornconservative district.

“Therefore, the supreme court holds that the Secretary [of State] may not certify Representative Lamborn to the 2018 primary ballot for Colorado’s Fifth Congressional District,” the court ruled according to reporting by POLITICO’s Elena Schneider.

The decision overruled Colorado Secretary of State Wayne Williams, whose office had certified Lamborn to the primary ballot using a broader interpretation of the state residency requirement for petition gatherers. But Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert said Lamborn could “go to the federal court and ask them to strike the residency requirement,” reported Schneider.

Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn (CO-5) recently gained attention in conservative circles by leading the fight to deny outspoken atheist and secular humanist Jason Heap’s appointment to the Navy Chaplain Corps.

Lamborn and Rep. Vicki Hartzler rallied forty-three Members of Congress to support the position that fundamentally, the chaplain corps is a religious institution that should ascribe to the religious needs of men and women in uniform. An individual with an avowed opposition to religion itself cannot fulfill the mission and duties of a chaplain, no matter how accomplished the candidate may be said Reps. Lamborn and Hartzler.

"The very definition of the chaplaincy was at stake here, so I am relieved to see the Navy's response," Rep. Lamborn said. "Appointing a secular-humanist or atheist chaplain would have gone against everything the chaplaincy was created to do. I applaud the Navy for upholding a traditional definition of the chaplaincy, which has been repeatedly confirmed by Congress and the DOD. The installment of an atheist chaplain would inevitably open the door to a host of chaplains representing many other philosophical worldviews, thus eroding the distinct religious function of the chaplain corps to the detriment of service members."

We contrast the results of the challenge to cultural conservative Rep. Lamborn’s petitions with the deference accorded to disgraced Democratic Rep. John Conyers, Jr. of Michigan, who likewise ran afoul of state ballot access rules back in 2014.

In 2014, the Conyers campaign, in a preliminary finding by the Wayne County [Michigan] clerk, failed to meet a requirement that was far from onerous. Facing an August primary election in a bid for his 26th term, Mr. Conyers, who represented Michigan’s 13th District, did not gather the required 1,000 valid signatures, partly because some of the campaign workers were not personally registered to vote, as required by Michigan law.

It “is my determination that in accordance with the current laws and statutes of the State of Michigan, the nominating petitions filed by Congressman John Conyers Jr. are insufficient” to allow Mr. Conyers’s name on the ballot, the county clerk, Cathy Garrett, said in a statement to the media. “Although I am not the final arbiter, I eagerly await the courts’ review of the constitutionality of the laws and statutes pertaining to petition circulators.”

After that invitation to litigate the state laws county clerk Garrett was sworn to uphold, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in federal court arguing that it is unconstitutional to require that signature collectors for campaigns be registered voters.

Conyers lost his administrative appeal seeking to be restored to the ballot, however, Judge Matthew Leitman of the Federal District Court in Detroit issued an injunction in Conyers’ favor “because time is of the essence,” explaining that the congressman’s “failure to comply with the registration statute was the result of good-faith mistakes.”

“The Court believes it is essential to issue this order now – prior to issuance of a supporting Opinion – in order to provide any party who may wish to appeal as much time as possible in which to do so and in order to maximize the time in which the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit may have to review any possible appeal,” the ruling said.

In his decision, Judge Leitman cited an opinion from a 2008 case, Nader v. Blackwell, which deemed a similar voter registration requirement law in Ohio unconstitutional under the First Amendment.

We wonder if the American Civil Liberties Union will jump to Rep. Lamborn’s defense as promptly as they came to the side of the now-disgraced Conyers, and if the “good-faith mistakes” argument will be as persuasive in the Federal District Court in Denver when a Republican is at bar, as it was in Detroit for a Democrat.

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