Virginia Voter Registration Extended After Cut-Cord Snafu Ends Last Registration Day

By Shani Saxon Oct 14, 2020

A day after a severed fiberoptic cord accidentally cut short the last day of voter registration in Virginia for November’s election, a federal judge has ordered registration extended until Thursday. 

According to the Washington Post, U.S. District Court Judge John A. Gibney Jr. ordered the new deadline of 11:59 p.m. Thursday.

Virginia’s last day of online voter registration was unexpectedly shut down Tuesday (October 13) by cut fiberoptic cable. Voter advocates responded immediately by filing a federal lawsuit against the state Department of Elections, the department’s commissioner and members of the state electoral board. The suit demanded an extension of the deadline, noting that thousands of voters missed the opportunity to register due to the mishap, according to The Washington Post.

Reports The Post:

Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said most of the state’s Internet service was cut off after the cable in Chesterfield County was inadvertently severed during roadside work related to an ongoing utilities project near Route 10. A spokeswoman with the state’s information technologies agency said it occurred sometime overnight and was discovered early Tuesday.

The disruption, which lasted until about 3:45 p.m. Tuesday, also affected online services provided by the state Department of Motor Vehicles, the Department of Health and several other agencies.

But its deepest impact was felt by the state Department of Elections during what has been a record turnout for early voting in Virginia. 

“A significant number of Virginia residents register to vote in the days leading up to the registration deadline,” the complaint read, according to The Post. Lawyers representing three civil rights organizations filed the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Richmond, asking to have the deadline extended until 11:59 p.m. Thursday (October 15), The Post reports. 

The lawsuit argued that communities of color and young people will be most impacted by the loss of time, primarily because they “tend to register disproportionately at higher rates during the last days of the registration period,” according to the complaint. 

Attorney General Mark R. Herring had previously indicated that, with Northam’s support, his office wasn’t likely to challenge the demand for the deadline extension. “I share Virginians’ deep concerns about the registration system outage,” he said