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Virginia Voting Rights Groups File Lawsuit to Extend Voter Registration Period Following Outage

Virginia Voters Must Be Given Extension to Register to Vote After Online Voter Portal Crashes on Final Day of Registration  

RICHMOND, VA—Today, the League of Women Voters of Virginia, Virginia Civic Engagement Table, and New Virginia Majority filed a federal lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Virginia, asking the court to grant a 48-hour extension for voter registration and to extend in-person early voting. The lawsuit was filed with representation from Advancement Project National Office and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.  

On the final day of voter registration before the state’s October 13 deadline, Virginia’s online voter registration system, VERIS, went offline due to a severed fiber optic cable, meaning that thousands of prospective voters were denied the ability to register for the upcoming general election. 

“This is not the first time Virginia has had glitches with its voter registration website during prime times. With more than 5 million eligible voters in Virginia, it is crucial that the system can handle this large volume in voter interest,” said Deb Wake, president of the League of Women Voters of Virginia. “Voters must not be silenced due to technical difficulties. The League is stepping in to make sure voters are given the opportunities they deserve to exercise their right to vote in this important election.” 

The groups are also seeking a one-day extension of Virginia’s early voting period, as the outage also interfered with early voting. Some individuals attempting to early vote today were instead only offered the opportunity to fill out a provisional ballot. The groups suggest that, in order to provide adequate relief for impacted voters, Virginia must implement an additional day of early voting and take affirmative steps to ensure that the provisional ballots that were cast today are counted. 

“While it’s understandable when states must contend with technical issues ahead of election deadlines, it is incumbent upon them to make up for the time lost to voters by extending registration deadlines,” said Celina Stewart, chief counsel and senior director of advocacy and litigation of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “Voters should not be punished for technical failings of the state. Election officials in Virginia must do right by voters and extend the registration and early voting deadlines.” 

Today's events were reminiscent of 2016, when the system also went down on the eve of the voter registration deadline, and groups sued to extend the deadline at that time as well. 

“All Virginians who are eligible to vote have a right to make their voices heard in our democracy, and the state has an obligation to ensure that all eligible voters have that access,” said Irene Shin, Executive Director of the Virginia Civic Engagement Table. “We’re not asking for anything more than for the courts and the Board of Elections to fix what was broken today. In order to right this wrong, the Board of Elections must grant an extension of the deadline.” 

“Our democracy is strongest when we all have an opportunity to participate in our free and fair elections,” said Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of New Virginia Majority. “The system-wide failure impacted Virginians across the Commonwealth, preventing people from registering to vote for the first time or updating their registrations, and prevented many voters from casting a regular ballot during in-person early voting. To ensure that every Virginian has an opportunity to participate in our democracy, it is imperative that the court provides the requested relief for those affected. Just as we have done in the past, New Virginia Majority will continue to defend Virginians' access to the ballot box.” 

“Virginians’ voting rights shouldn’t be hanging by a fiber-optic cable,” said Jorge Vasquez, power and democracy director of Advancement Project National Office. “Extending the registration and early voting deadlines is the only way that Virginia can adequately address the harm this outage has caused to voters. We know the commonwealth recognizes that this mishap has interfered with Virginians’ fundamental right to vote; we’re calling on Virginia to do right by its voters.” 

“The commonwealth failed the public and it must grant a significant extension to ensure all Virginians are given an equal opportunity to exercise their fundamental right to vote,” said Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Extending the registration deadline is a common-sense step that can be taken to address the potential disenfranchisement of thousands of eligible people across Virginia. This now marks two presidential election cycles in a row in which the state's registration system has collapsed and we hope that this will counsel in favor of stronger systems and backstops to prevent mass disenfranchisement in the future.”

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PRESS CONTACT: Kayla Vix | 202-809-9668 | [email protected]