Virginia online voter registration site returns hours before the deadline


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In what is fast becoming a pattern for voter registration in the 2020 presidential election, technical difficulties befell another state’s voter registration website on the last day citizens can register. This time, Virginians were locked out of the ability to register online.

For about six hours on Tuesday, visitors to Virginia’s voter registration website were greeted with a message saying it was “temporarily unavailable” due to a “network outage” that could not have come at a worse time.

Screenshot of error message on Virginia’s voter registration website

The cause, according to the state’s Information Technology Agency, was that a Verizon fiber optic cable that provided internet to the state’s Enterprise Solutions Center was somehow cut, taking the voter registration site down with it.

“A crew working overnight on a roadside utilities project severed fiber cables,” Krys Grondorf of Verizon told Recode. “It was not a Verizon crew that severed the cable — it was a county roadside utilities project.”

The website was back up and running by around 3:30 pm. Voters currently have until 11:59 pm to register online.

The Virginia Department of Elections did not respond to a request for comment on what, if anything, the state will do to make up for the time that the site was down. But there is precedent for extending voter registration; in 2016, Virginia’s site crashed just before the deadline due to too much traffic. A federal judge ordered the state to extend the deadline by 36 hours to make up for it.

Last week, Florida’s voter registration website crashed in the final hours of registration. While the Florida secretary of state initially said the outage was brief, it turned out to last for several hours, potentially preventing tens of thousands of registrations. The state ended up extending registration for seven hours the next day, albeit in the middle of the day and with little notice.

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