Virginia Voters Can Now Register Until Thursday Night
By Brian Carlton
October 14, 2020

US District Court judge agrees with lawsuit, says voters were harmed by Tuesday’s shutdown

RICHMOND-Virginia residents can now register to vote until 11:59 pm on Oct. 15. US District Court Judge John A. Gibney Jr. signed off on the request Wednesday morning, in response to a lawsuit brought by multiple voters rights groups. 

Gibney said Tuesday’s incident in Chesterfield County caused tremendous harm for anyone who wanted to cast a ballot. He pointed to the fact that many people wait until the last minute to register, after seeing reminders on social media. 

The order goes into effect immediately, including both online and in-person registration. Virginia residents can click here to register online or visit their local board of elections in person. 

“Today’s agreement to extend the voter registration deadline is a big win for democracy. Any eligible Virginian who was not able to register to vote yesterday can now do so,” said Attorney General Herring. “I have made it a top priority over the last several months to protect Virginians’ right to vote by making it as easy, safe and secure as possible, and this agreement is no different. I will continue to fight to make sure that every eligible Virginian can vote in this crucial election and that their vote will count.”

Late Tuesday night, Herring filed a consent decree, stating that Virginia would extend the deadline, provide notice to the public of the extension and offer additional information about alternative methods of registering, in case of another system outage. 

In a statement released Wednesday, Virginia Republican Party leadership applauded the ruling, while also suggesting that government officials check before digging. 

“Judge Gibney did the right thing by extending the registration deadline until Thursday,” said RPV Chairman Rich Anderson. “Voters should not be penalized for the latest of the Northam administration’s failures in election administration.”

Cut Cable Causes Problems

The entire voting registration system shut down Tuesday after work crews cut a fiber cable. A Chesterfield County crew working on a sewer project accidentally cut the line while digging. That shut down information transfer between the Commonwealth Enterprise Solutions Center and all online voter registration systems. The Department of Motor Vehicles and other statewide agencies also shut down as a result. Commonwealth officials installed the 10-gigabyte circuit this spring to deal with increased broadband needs due to COVID-19 and a shift to remote work.

The backup system can’t handle the same workload, so all online voter registration systems were offline until 3:30 pm. Even now, there’s only a temporary fix in place. With that being the case, Virginia residents lost at least seven hours of online registration. That doesn’t mean registrations didn’t take place. We documented how several cities and counties used paper and pen in order to register people.

Tuesday afternoon, the Virginia League of Women Voters filed a lawsuit to extend the deadline, joined by the New Virginia Majority Education Fund and the Virginia Civic Engagement Table as plaintiffs. Members of each group said its important to give everyone a chance to take part in the election.  

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