Organizations express concern about Va. online voter registration issues

VIRGINIA (WAVY) — Multiple civil rights organizations are calling for action in response to problems with Virginia’s online voter registration system Monday.

People who were trying to register to vote on Monday were being redirected to a blank page.

Virginia’s online voter registration system overwhelmed on deadline day

Edgardo Cortés, Commissioner for the Virginia Department of Elections, told that the online system was overwhelmed by an increase in activity, which resulted in a slow down and sometimes complete unresponsiveness on the site.

The deadline to register to vote was 11:59 p.m. Monday. The state Department of Elections said despite the issues, there would be no extension for registration.

On Tuesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia released a statement, saying the Commonwealth is responsible for the issues and should “remedy this injustice.” Here is their full 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.”

Along with the ACLU, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law also issued a letter Tuesday, urging state officials to extend the voter registration deadline.

Cortés responded to the Lawyers’ Committee late Tuesday with a letter, that said 38,725 voters registered through the online portal in the 48 hours leading up to the deadline.

“We understand the frustration experienced by voters and we apologize the system was unable to handle the overwhelming demand from voters,” the letter reads. “The Department is committed to ensuring all eligible Virginians have a positive voting experience and are able to participate in their democracy. We will continue to focus our efforts on improving our systems and working with the General Assembly to appropriately fund elections in the Commonwealth.”

Read the full letter from the commissioner here.

The Lawyers’ Committee said if you have questions about your registration status, you can call one of the following hotlines: 866-OUR-VOTE for English language assistance, 888-VE-Y-VOTA for Spanish language assistance, and 888-API-VOTE for assistance in several Asian languages. You can also reach out to your local registrar.

North Carolina election officials extended the deadline to register to vote in 36 eastern counties of the state because of disruptions caused by Hurricane Matthew. The order came in response to a lawsuit filed by the North Carolina Democratic Party.

A federal lawsuit in Georgia seeks to do the same for six coastal counties because of hurricane-related disruptions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.