Washington (CNN) - An independent candidate for Congress, affiliated with the conservative Tea Party movement, has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to force Virginia election officials to accept signatures on petitions to place his name on the ballot.
Herb Lux of Rapphannock, Virginia has filed an emergency appeal with Chief Justice John Roberts, arguing with less than six week before the election, he needs a final ruling on whether his name can appear alongside other office-seekers.
At issue is a state law requiring congressional candidates to obtain a minimum number of signatures before appearing on the ballot. The twist is that most of Lux's signatures were invalidated because he himself witnessed them. Normally that is not a problem, but state law says only a resident of the congressional district can collect such nominating petitions himself.
Lux is seeking a seat in the Seventh District, now held by Republican Rep. Eric Cantor, but lives in the adjacent First District. Virginia does not require a candidate for the House of Representatives to live in the district he or she is running.
Federal courts had earlier turned away the lawsuit, filed against three officials with the Virginia Board of Elections.
In a sign the high court may be taking the issue somewhat seriously, Roberts asked state election officials to respond to Lux's complaint by Monday. The chief justice could himself decide whether to force the independent candidate's name on the ballot, or ask the entire nine-member court to weigh in on the dispute.
In his emergency "application" with the court, Lux's attorney James Bopp, Jr. said the state law was too restrictive, and unfairly hurts independent, less well-funded candidates like his client.
"The Supreme Court has clearly indicated that under the First Amendment a state may not prohibit large classes of people from circulating petitions absent a compelling reason," said Bopp. "There is simply no reason for prohibiting Mr. Lux from circulating his own petitions." Bopp heads the James Madison Center for Free Speech, a conservative legal group and law firm.
Lux is a self-described "Constitutionalist," who founded the American Patriots Committee, a statewide group which, according to its website, supports "righteous men and women for elected office that understand and will support our Constitution, as it is written and according to its original intent with the meanings of the terms and words as defined at the time of its writing." He has spoken at several Tea Party-related events. That grassroots, populist movement has gained political momentum this election year through a series of nationwide protests against high taxes and excessive government bureaucracy.
The case is Lux v. Rodrigues (10A298).