RICHMOND, Va. (NewsNation Now) — A lawsuit seeking to extend Virginia’s voter registration deadline was filed after an inadvertently severed fiber optic cable shut down the state’s online voter registration system for more than five hours Tuesday, the last day to register before the November general election.
The case will be held Wednesday morning at 9 a.m.
A group led by the New Virginia Majority Educational Fund filed the lawsuit seeking to extend Virginia’s voter registration deadline through Oct. 15.
Our democracy is strongest when we all have an opportunity to participate in our free and fair elections. 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.TRAM NGUYEN, CO-EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF NEW VIRGINIA MAJORITY
The Virginia Department of Elections said in a statement on Twitter that a “fiber cut” was affecting connectivity for multiple agencies, including the citizen portal and registrar’s offices, and technicians were working to repair the problem. According to a Verizon spokesperson, the fiber was inadvertently struck by a crew working on a roadside utility project.
In a statement, Verizon spokesperson Richard Young said “a crew working overnight on a roadside utilities project severed fiber cables in Chesterfield that serve a data center managed by the Virginia Information Technology Agency.” Young said service was restored at 2:30 p.m.
Local general registrars told NewsNation affiliate WRIC-TV the outage has prevented them from processing absentee ballot requests and voter registration updates but did not impact early voting.
“It is also impacting our ability to verify for a voter whether they are already registered or not,” Richmond’s general registrar Kirk Showalter told WRIC. “If someone is unsure, our best piece of advice is to come in person to register or complete a hard copy application and get it postmarked by today. All city post offices have applications.”
Gov. Ralph Northam said during Tuesday’s coronavirus briefing that his office has explored all options and that he supports an extension to the deadline but that state code doesn’t appear to allow him to make the directive. The governor said that an extension would require a court order.
You can read the full lawsuit here:
Nearly 1 million voters in Virginia have already cast their ballot for this year’s election.
The Associated Press and NewsNation affiliate WRIC-TV contributed to this report.