ALEXANDRIA, Va. (AP/WRIC) — A federal judge has granted a brief extension of Virginia’s voter registration deadline after heavy demand prevented some voters from registering online.
Judge Claude Hilton on Thursday ordered an immediate reopening of voter registration in the commonwealth through Friday.
At a hearing in federal court in Alexandria, state officials actually wanted to extend the deadline even longer, through Monday. But Hilton said he only wanted to extend the process long enough to make up for the computer glitches that occurred in the hours leading up to the original Oct. 17 deadline.
A voter advocacy group sued state officials this week seeking the extension.
Virginia elections commissioner Edgardo Cortes says the department will notify voters of the extension. His department released the following information about registration.
Virginians who submit a voter registration application or update an existing voter registration record in any of the following methods may participate in the 2016 November General Election:
- In-person to the office of their local general registrar by 5pm on Friday, October 21st
- By mail postmarked on or before Friday, October 21st
- Online at vote.virginia.gov through 11:59pm on Friday, October 21st
- To an NVRA designated state agency, such as the DMV or a social services office, by October 21st.
The director of the ACLU of Virginia, Claire Guthrie Gastañaga made a comment about the decision.
“The ACLU of Virginia is pleased that the federal court has ordered extension of the voter registration deadline to Friday at 11:59 p.m. in the case filed by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights seeking to protect the voting rights of Virginians denied the ability to register to vote as a result of the statewide failure of the Department of Elections’ online registration system,” Gastañaga said. “The right to vote is fundamental in our democracy, and we are glad that the federal court agreed that Virginians should have an extended opportunity to register to vote and participate in this year’s presidential election.”
Governor Terry McAuliffe also weighed in.
“I am pleased that the court has agreed with the request to extend Virginia’s voter registration period after unprecedented web traffic prevented many people from completing their registrations online before the original deadline,” McAuliffe said. “However, I do want to urge Virginians who are interested in registering to vote to act as quickly as possible and, if they are able, to take advantage of all of the available ways to register to vote during this period, including visiting a local registrar’s office or a Department of Motor Vehicles office.“The Virginia Department of Elections and the Virginia Information Technology Agency have been working overtime since Monday night to expand the capacity of the system that allows Virginians to register to vote online, and I am confident that the steps we have taken will provide an improved experience to people who use it.“
Meanwhile, Republicans called the crash a predictable and avoidable issue. In a statement released by House Republican leaders, they said:
“We obviously accept the Court’s order to extend the deadline but the entire episode was unfortunate, predictable, and avoidable. Local registrars attempted to warn the McAuliffe administration this was going to happen, and the General Assembly’s Privileges and Elections Committees attempted to bring these issues to light at a joint hearing last week. In both cases the Department of Elections brushed aside legitimate concerns instead of taking the prompt action that was needed.
“We remain fully confident that the Commonwealth’s local election registrars will conduct the upcoming elections fairly and smoothly, and that their hard work will ensure the integrity of the outcome. However, it is clear that local election registrars and the General Assembly have lost confidence in the Department of Elections and its ability to provide the necessary technical and support services.
“Governor McAuliffe should consider a leadership change at the Department after the November elections and the General Assembly should order a review by the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission when we convene in January.”
Chesterfield County’s local registrar Larry Haake said the court’s decision will put his office extremely behind.
“I’ve been doing this over 21 years, and no I have not seen a year like this,” Haake said.
Haake was one of a number of registrars who raised concerns over the readiness of the state’s voter technology during a joint Privileges and Elections committee meeting held by state lawmakers last week. While Republicans are putting blame on the commissioner of the Department of Elections. Haake said he blames the governor.
“Today I say to the governor, it started with him. the commissioner of elections put money in his budget that he needed to the governor and the governor didn’t put it in,” Haake said.
This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.