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Advocates Sue to Extend Virginia Voter Registration

People cast a ballot
Voters cast ballots in the June 2019 Democratic primaries. (Crixell Matthews/VPM News)

A coalition of advocacy groups filed a lawsuit against the state of Virginia late Tuesday to allow two more days of voter registration. A proposed agreement from Attorney General Mark Herring would allow that to happen, but still needs final approval from a federal judge on Wednesday morning. 

The lawsuit follows a statewide IT failure that shut down voter registration for a significant stretch of its final day on Tuesday. In their complaint, the coalition argues that if the deadline is not extended, Virginians “will be deprived of their fundamental right to vote.”

Virginia Civic Engagement Table, New Virginia Majority, League of Women Voters of Virginia, Advancement Project National Office, and Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed the lawsuit in in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia. The case is set for a 9 a.m. hearing on Wednesday morning.

Attorney General Mark Herring filed a response backing their effort. 

“We are 21 days away from the most important election of our lifetimes and I want to make sure that every Virginian who wants to vote has the opportunity to do so,” Herring, a Democrat, said in a statement.

State officials say utility workers accidentally cut a cable in Chester, Virginia, shutting down IT services for several state agencies. They reported the outage fixed around 3:30 p.m. It’s not clear how many potential voters were affected.

“The Commonwealth failed the public and it must grant a significant extension to ensure all Virginians are given an equal opportunity to exercise their fundamental right to vote,” said Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, in a statement.

Virginia law does not allow Gov. Ralph Northam to extend the deadline. 

“That is up to the courts,” Northam said in a press conference on Tuesday afternoon. “And I would support a court-ordered extension to the deadline.”

In 2016, a lawsuit prompted by a similar outage caused a federal judge to extend registration by a day.

Virginia’s outage comes after another tech failure prompted a judge to briefly extend voter registration in Florida last week.

Ben Paviour covers courts and criminal justice for VPM News with a focus on accountability.
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