ACLU call for VA to extend voter registration deadline after website crash

Published: Oct. 18, 2016 at 6:04 PM EDT|Updated: Oct. 18, 2016 at 10:45 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Calls are emerging to extend Virginia's voter registration deadline, after the state's election website crashed on the last day to register.

A number of viewers contacted NBC12, upset that they now cannot vote in in the presidential election. However, there is nothing in Virginia's legal code that allows for an extension of the registration deadline, according to VA Election Board Commissioner Edgardo Cortes. Cortes says the website received record numbers of visitors and was overwhelmed at times, as thousands waited until the last day to register.

Sheba Williams, executive director of the felon advocacy group Nolef Turns, says the site was down most of Monday when she tried to help felons register online. Williams says some of those felons were reinstated to vote by the governor, within the last week.

"[The website] would say 'file not found.' So you couldn't go any further with that," said Williams. "If your website goes down, and it's not user error, these people shouldn't be penalized."

"We apologize to the voters impacted and are taking the information we've learned from yesterday to figure out what changes we need to make, so we don't encounter this issue again," Cortes said.

The ACLU of Virginia and the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights are now calling for the VA Department of Elections to extend the registration deadline. The Lawyer's Committee asks for another 72 hours, in a letter to the department.

The ACLU of Virginia released the following statement:

"The ACLU of Virginia is deeply concerned about reports that some people were unable to register to vote on the final day of registration due to problems with the Virginia State Department of Elections' online system.

"The Department is required by statute to have necessary equipment in place to operate and maintain the voter registration system at all times, including on the final day of registration in a presidential year when high demand is predictable. Further, given that state law includes a provision to accommodate persons who are standing in line when their registrar's office closes on the last day of registration, similar allowances should be made for those who attempted to register online without success.

"Because it was the state's failure to successfully operate the voter registration system, it is state's burden to remedy this injustice. We urge the department to take any and all measures necessary to protect and ensure the fundamental right to vote in the 2016 election of any Virginian whose right may have been compromised or denied by the failure of legally required registration systems."

Cortes says 21,000 people were still able to register Monday. He says the General Assembly would have to pass a bill to extend the deadline.

If you recently moved to a different voting precinct, or registered in person, but aren't sure if your application was processed, call your registrar to check.
You might be able to vote in your old precinct, or fill out a provisional ballot election day that will still be counted, if the registrar can confirm you applied on time.

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