Three Virginia voting groups filed a lawsuit to extend the voter registration deadline to Thursday night following a utility work mishap that knocked out the state’s voter registration website for hours on the final day for filing before the general election.
“The outage of Virginia’s Citizen Portal online voter registration system on the final day of voter registration on October 13, 2020, necessitates a brief but vitally important extension of the Virginia voter registration deadline,” the complaint argues. “Unless the voter registration deadline is extended to October 15, 2020, Plaintiffs’ members and others will be deprived of their fundamental right to vote in the November 3, 2020, election.”
The ACLU of Virginia also weighed in on the matter, calling on the attorney general of Virginia to seek a court order, allowing an “extension of time to register if the Department believes it cannot take remedial action on its own.”
“It’s critical that AG @MarkHerringVA step up and ask the court to extend the voter registration deadline,” the organization wrote on Twitter. “The state is responsible for the technical failure, it’s only fair that the state works to remedy it.”
Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Tuesday he does not have the power to extend the voter-registration deadline. He later said that his administration was in close contact with Attorney General Herring and remains hopeful for an extension.
Herring said he shares “Virginians’ deep concerns about the registration system outrage.”
“I’ve always taken action to ensure you can safely cast your ballot in-person or by mail and to ensure your vote will count, and we are approaching this situation in exactly the same way. Stay tuned,” he tweeted.
Chesterfield County utility crews accidentally cut a fiber optic line while working on a roadside project Tuesday morning, according to the Virginia Information Technologies Agency. It interrupted data and network access for multiple commonwealth agencies – including the Department of Elections and registrars’ offices around the state, authorities said.
A Virginia Department of Elections spokeswoman said the fiber optic cable was cut near a data center in Chester off Route 10.
While online registration was down, visitors were given the option to print out an application, which would have to be submitted in person before the deadline. Portsmouth-based WAVY-TV reported that citizens trying to register or vote early in person would receive provisional ballots.
It’s not the first time that computer glitches have disrupted Virginia’s online voter registration system at the last minute.
“Déjà vu,” Republican Party of Virginia spokesman John March told Fox News Tuesday. “The Department’s system failed on the last day to register in 2016. Just one more election administration failure in a year when Democrats keep changing the rules as we get closer to Election Day.”
In that election, a judge granted a small extension to the registration period after the system crashed under a rush of late applications that left an unknown number of voters unable to register.
Kristen Clarke, the executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which sued on behalf of voters after the disruption four years ago, called the latest interruption “astonishing.”
“This error is particularly astounding given that this same problem occurred at virtually the same time in 2016,” she said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.