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Virginia Voter Registration Extended After System Disruption

A judge ruled in favor of an extension of the state’s voter registration deadline after a utilities crew accidentally cut a Verizon fiber cable, disrupting online registrations the day of the deadline.

by Robyn Sidersky, The Virginian-Pilot / October 14, 2020

(TNS) — A federal judge in Richmond has granted a request to extend voter registration in Virginia.

It will be extended until Thursday at 11:59 p.m., according to a tweet from Attorney General Mark Herring Wednesday morning.

The request was made by voter advocacy groups and supported by Herring after a fiber was cut overnight Monday and voter registration online was disrupted on the last day it was allowed.

The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, a civil rights advocacy group, and the Advancement Project National Office filed litigation Tuesday evening representing the League of Women Voters of Virginia, the New Virginia Majority and the Virginia Civic Engagement Table “to secure relief for those who have been affected.”

Herring said he also filed a motion asking the courts to extend the voter registration deadline.

Tuesday’s outage happened when a utilities crew accidentally cut a Verizon fiber cable overnight off Route 10 in Chester, according to state technology officials. It interrupted Internet access for state government agencies, including the Department of Elections. The system was back to normal by 4 p.m.

The outage meant anyone who wanted to vote early in person while the system was down had to cast a provisional ballot. Anyone who wanted to register to vote had to do so in person.

This is the second consecutive presidential election cycle the state’s registration system has experienced outages.

The group sued Virginia for a similar outage four years ago and won. At the time, it was representing the voter advocacy group New Virginia Majority, which sought an extension after voters struggled to register online. A federal judge ordered officials to reopen voter registration just long enough to make up for computer glitches that occurred in the hours leading up to the deadline.

“The decision to extend the registration deadline was the right thing is 2016, and it’s the right one now. It’s unfortunate that an accident caused a system wide failure, but Virginia voters should not have to bear the burden and lose their franchise due to a technology error through no fault of their own,” said Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of New Virginia Majority in a statement.

“Virginians are excited to vote in this election as evidenced by the high turnout during the last several weeks of early voting. We encourage every eligible Virginia to check their registration status and register to vote.”

©2020 The Virginian-Pilot, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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