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Virginia elections office finds another 149,000 records affected by IT glitch

Signs at the entrance to a polling place
The Virginia Department of Elections announced Monday that 149,000 additional voter registration records were affected by an IT glitch over the summer. (File photo: Alex Scribner/VPM News)

The Virginia Department of Elections announced Monday it found an additional 149,000 voter registration records that were affected by an IT glitch over the summer.

In a statement, the department said the problem is “directly related” to an IT error that caused a separate batch of 107,000 records last month to sit in limbo from May through September. The department also had issues with mailings it sent voters, including more than 175,000 that were sent to wrong addresses and more than 60,000 with incorrect voting information. New mailings were sent out after the errors were discovered.

“I am very grateful for the vigilance of Virginia’s general registrars in quickly surfacing concerns during early voting,” Commissioner of Elections Susan Beals said in a statement. “With information from local officials, [the Department of Elections’] IT professionals were able to scour the election system data to identify the additional transactions for processing.”

Virginia voters can check their voting status online or by calling (804) 864-8901, ext. 0. For the first time this year, Virginia voters will have the option of same-day voter registration after Democratic lawmakers passed a law creating that option in 2020.

Local registrars are now scrambling to process the records ahead of election day. The state election office said in its statement it would provide staff for the effort, if registrars requested it. Officials in the state’s largest locality, Fairfax County, said they’d do “whatever it takes” to process 11,000 voter registration applications that they received from the state on Monday before Election Day on Nov. 8. 

Missy Vera, general registrar in Chesterfield County just south of Richmond, said she’d received a new batch of 4,475 records to process. Vera said she was taking it in stride, adding that she would “absolutely” finish processing the records ahead of Election Day.

“When you work elections, there is never a dull moment,” Vera said. “And you just have to be willing to pivot at any given moment.”

The voter files include new Virginia voter registrations and changes in address recorded at Department of Motor Vehicles offices across the commonwealth.

In an interview last week about the first reports of an IT glitch, Beals said the records didn’t make it from the DMV to local election officials because of a problem with an application programming interface — a program that connects voter data received from the DMV to the state’s election IT system, VERIS.

Beals said at the time that the elections department had instituted new protocols to prevent the mistake from happening again. She also said she accepted responsibility for the election administration errors. Support tickets obtained by VPM News show registrars noted the problem in May. While state technical staffers said the problem had been fixed, the complaints continued at a slower pace through September.

That apology and explanation differed from Republican Gov. Glenn Youngkin, who appointed Beals to the position in March. In an interview earlier this month, he blamed his predecessor, Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, for not moving faster to replace VERIS. Beals announced last week that the department had signed a contract with the vendor to build out a new system that’s currently expected to be operational in February 2025.

Youngkin focused on the issue of “election integrity” during his campaign for governor last year; for the six months of his run, it was the only policy issue listed on his website.

Some Virginia Democrats have faulted Youngkin for replacing the previous commissioner, Chris Piper, whom they said had bipartisan respect and a track record of running smooth elections.

In a Monday interview, state Sen. Scott Surovell (D-Fairfax County) also faulted the governor for touring battleground states to stump for Republicans, rather than focusing on Virginia. Youngkin campaigned for New York gubernatorial hopeful Lee Zeldin on Monday and recently made a stop in Arizona for Kari Lake, who has denied the results of the 2020 election.

“I don't think these problems are our priority to a governor who hangs out with election deniers and who spends most of his time running for president around the country,” Surovell said.

Youngkin’s spokesperson, Macaulay Porter, argued the problems with DMV voter registrations were “not new” and encouraged anyone with questions to contact the Department of Elections.

“Democrats are doing all they can to distract Virginians from the fact that these issues are systemic and have been a problem for years over several administrations,” Porter said. “We’re working to fix this problem once and for all.”

This story has been updated to include comment from Gov. Youngkin's spokesperson.

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