Federal Judge Grants Virginia Voter Registration Deadline Extension After Outage

FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA - SEPTEMBER 18: People stand on line, spaced six apart due to COVID-19, in order to vote early at the Fairfax Government Center on September 18, 2020 in Fairfax, Virginia. Voters waited up to four ... FAIRFAX, VIRGINIA - SEPTEMBER 18: People stand on line, spaced six apart due to COVID-19, in order to vote early at the Fairfax Government Center on September 18, 2020 in Fairfax, Virginia. Voters waited up to four hours to early vote in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, polls opened at 8am, and people where in line at 5:45am according to poll workers. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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October 14, 2020 11:55 a.m.

A federal judge granted a 48-hour extension for voter registration in Virginia on Wednesday morning, a day after a cut cable shut down the state’s online voter registration system. The outage happened on the state’s final day for voter registration and impeded early in-person voting as well.

U.S. District Judge John Gibney Jr. in Richmond said the order will reopen both online and in-person voter registration until 11:59 p.m. on Thursday.

Gibney said that the shutdown of the state’s website caused “tremendous harm” to people who want to register the vote, according to the Associated Press.

“You can’t go back in time and register people,” Gibney said, according to CNN, before adding that without the extension order “almost an entire day of voter registration will be lost.”

Gibney’s order comes after Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring issued a statement on Tuesday night urging the extension, noting that the November election was 21 days out and that he wanted to “make sure that every Virginian who wants to vote has the opportunity to do so.”

Among several groups that filed a petition for an extension following the outage, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a lawsuit arguing that without a voter registration extension, voters who were “unable through no fault of their own, will be absolutely disenfranchised in the upcoming elections.”

After acknowledging that the state lacked a backup plan after a 10-gigabit optical fiber circuit was inadvertently cut during a Chesterfield County roadside utilities project on Tuesday, Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D) expressed support for extending the state’s voter registration deadline, but said that only the courts could do so.

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