Va. voters given extra time to register after computer problems

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A federal judge has extended voter registration in Virginia another 36 hours after the state’s elections computer system nearly crashed under high demand — inspired in part by a social media reminder — on Monday.

Virginians have until 11:59 p.m. Friday to register and still be able to vote in the Nov. 8 presidential election.

Thousands of Virginians tried to register by the original deadline but the high demand overwhelmed the state-run computer system to the point that it timed out for both county registrar workers and for those trying to access the state’s online registration portal.

The decision is a victory for Virginians, said Arusha Gordon, an attorney with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which filed a lawsuit this week seeking the extension.

“It still gives Virginians a chance to get out and get registered, and have their voices heard this November,” Gordon said.

The suit argued that an unknown number of Virginians were deprived of their constitutional right to vote because they could not access the system, due to no fault of their own, she said.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe attributed the wave of registrations — 21,000 were filed on Monday alone — to a reminder sent out to Facebook and Google users to check their voter status on the state’s online election portal.

“The system literally got overwhelmed,” he said.

Extra capacity has been added to the system to help more Virginians register by the new deadline. But McAuliffe urged state residents to avoid using the online portal to make sure it would be available for those who need to register or revise their information.

The online portal connects to the same central database that registrars use to update voter files and add new voters — bogging down the system for local government offices too.

The system slowdowns held up Virginians trying to cast their in-person, absentee ballots, and waits were as long as an hour in Fairfax County on Monday, Registrar Cameron Sasnett told WTOP.

Virginians can register or update their registration online at Mailed paper registration forms must be postmarked by 5 p.m. Friday. Or voters can drop off their paper forms at their local registrar’s office, Gordon said.

Voters can also go to a Department of Motor Vehicles branch to register or update their registration.

Anyone still experiencing problems can call the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law at 866-OUR-VOTE or the Virginia Department of Elections, where staff can track those complaints and help voters complete the filing process.

In October, 120,000 Virginians registered to vote — breaking records and indicating that turnout could be high on Nov. 8.

“We’ve never in Virginia history seen anything like this before,” McAuliffe said.

He encouraged voters to cast an in-person, absentee ballot if they qualify to avoid long lines at the polls on Election Day.

Nick Iannelli

Nick Iannelli can be heard covering developing and breaking news stories on WTOP.

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