Voting rights groups: Lawsuit filed to extend Virginia’s voter registration deadline

Published: Oct. 13, 2020 at 7:20 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said a federal lawsuit will be filed shortly to extend Virginia’s voter registration by 48 hours.

McAuliffe told WHSV News on Tuesday night the New Virginia Majority will file the lawsuit. In a press release, the organization confirmed it did so with several voting rights groups.

A severed fiber optic cable in Chesterfield County shut down Virginia’s online voter registration system on Tuesday which was the deadline for Virginians to register to vote.

The Virginia Department of Elections said Tuesday in statement on Twitter that a cut cable was affecting connectivity for multiple agencies, including the citizen portal and registrar’s offices. The state’s IT agency said in a tweet that the cable was inadvertently cut during a Chesterfield County roadside utilities project. Six hours later, the portal was back online.

“At the end of the day, we don’t want anyone disenfranchised,” McAuliffe said. “This is not a not a partisan issue -- Democrat, Republican, independent -- today was the last day. A lot of people wait until the end. They went today and a construction crew accidentally cut a cable. That’s no one’s fault. It happens. But, the remedy is to extend the deadline.”

Several public officials, including McAuliffe and Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax, called for the registration deadline to be extended because of the technical issues. During a press conference on Tuesday, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam said his hands are tied.

“That deadline is set in our code and it does not appear that I have the authority to change it that is up to the courts and I would support a court-ordered extension,” said Northam.

In 2016, a civil rights group filed a federal lawsuit against Virginia election officials after the state’s online voter registration system crashed. A judge granted a 36-hour extension.

According to a press release from the voting rights groups, its lawsuit also aims to extend early-voting by one day because the outage impacted those wishing to cast their ballot early.

“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.”

This is a developing story. Stay with WHSV News for updates.

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