A federal Judge extended Virginia’s voter registration deadline Wednesday morning after the system experienced statewide outages from a severed fiber cable on Tuesday.
The deadline for Virginians to register to vote is now Thursday at 11:59 p.m.
On Tuesday evening, litigation was filed by a lawyer representing the New Virginia Majority, Virginia Civic Engagement Table and the League of Women Voters of Virginia seeking emergency injunctive relief on the claims that voters’ rights were violated when they were unable to register before the deadline.
The lawsuit was brought against the Virginia Department of Elections (VDOE) and Virginia State Board of Elections and Commissioners.
Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring, whose office represented the defendants, posted a photo to Twitter Tuesday night of a brief he filed asking the court to extend the deadline.
Herring wrote: “We need to make up for the time lost today. We have 21 days until the most important election of our lifetimes and I want to make sure every eligible Virginian who wants to vote can.”
🚨BREAKING🚨 I've filed a brief asking the Court to extend the voter registration deadline.
We need to make up for the time lost today. We have 21 days until the most important election of our lifetimes and I want to make sure every eligible Virginian who wants to vote can. pic.twitter.com/LCqU7IZ5o6
— Mark Herring (@MarkHerringVA) October 14, 2020
U.S. District Court Judge John Gibney ultimately agreed with the plaintiffs and granted the extension for the registration deadline.
“What has happened has happened and there will be irreparable harm because apparently many people were trying to register at the last minute. I’ll write this order so we can get this process going,” Gibney said during the virtual hearing, according to Courthouse News Service.
Following Gibney’s decision, the VDOE published a news release to its website.
“The Department welcomes today’s court decision to extend the voter registration deadline through Thursday, October 15th,” VDOE Commissioner Christopher Piper said in the release. “This gives eligible Virginians additional time to register or update their current voter registration record.”
The Verizon fiber cable that caused the system outages for much of Tuesday, impacting several state agencies bedsides the VDOE, was cut accidentally during a roadside utilities project in Chesterfield County.
The resulting technical issues specifically impacted VDOE’s citizen portal and led to many state Democratic leaders calling for the deadline to be extended including former governor Terry McAuliffe, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax and U.S. Representative Jennifer Wexton, among others.
Virginia’s registration system also experienced outages in the lead up to the 2016 president election, when a civil rights group filed a similar lawsuit against state election officials to get the registration deadline extended to ensure Virginians had equal opportunity to vote.
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