The Virginia Department of Elections electronic voter registration system was offline for several hours Tuesday due to a fiber being cut outside the Commonwealth Enterprise Solutions Center near Chester, according to Tweets from the Virginia Department of Elections and the Virginia Information Technology Agency.
However, the online registration system was up and running again by 3:27 p.m., according to the Twitter account for the Virginia Department of Elections.
“Right now, we’re just advising anyone having trouble accessing the portal online to come down and fill out the application in person,” Mark Finks, Harrisonburg director of elections/general registrar, said that morning.
He said that even though the system was down, valid voter registration forms filled out in person Tuesday would count.
“As long as the applications are in [Tuesday], we can file them tomorrow or at a later date,” Finks said.
Lisa Gooden, the Rockingham County director of elections and registrar, said the system being down had impacted numerous processes.
“We can’t look up voter information or confirm voter information, receipt of ballots and that type of thing,” she said Tuesday morning.
The system had been down for hours, according to Gooden.
“When we came in this morning, the system was down,” she said.
Finks said the city voter registrar’s office did not hear much from the public about the system being down.
“Surprisingly, we haven’t had a lot of calls about it today,” Finks said at 10:10 a.m.
Both Finks and Gooden said they were waiting for guidance from the Virginia Department of Elections.
“It’s just something that has unfortunately happened,” Gooden said.
Finks said the system was up for the city registrar’s office again at around 2 p.m. About 100 city residents came in to register in person Tuesday, according to Finks.
“We did have more people come in to register to vote than we typically have, but I didn’t get the sense whether it was because of the online difficulties or not,” he said.
Gooden said about 25 county residents came in to register Tuesday.
“We made the best of the situation,” she said.
Local party leaders said the system being down shows the value of still having physical paper applications available.
“Voter registration is very important and it’s great our system has paper backups, which can be downloaded and printed from the same website,” said Alleyn Harned, the chair of the Harrisonburg Democratic Committee.
“You always have the paper,” said Daryl Borgquist, chair of the Rockingham County Republican Committee.
Jeffrey Mayfield, the chair of the Harrisonburg City Republican Committee, said the Department of Elections should look into granting an extension if the online system were down all day.
He said people who were planning on registering online while at work may not have the ability to fill out applications offline if their shifts extend beyond 5 p.m.
“That’s like the voting machines don’t want to work on Election Day, c’mon now,” Mayfield said.
Rockingham County Democratic Committee Chair Colum Leckey said the Democratic Party of Virginia has applied for an extension of the voter registration deadline due to the outage.
Gov. Ralph Northam said at a press conference that he supports extending the deadline. But he said it appears that only the courts have the ability to change it.
Northam, a Democrat, added the state did not have a backup plan for this particular cable and the episode shows the need for the state to continue its efforts at creating a secure network.
“Obviously, we still have a lot of work to do,” Northam said.
Secretary of Administration Keyanna Conner said the cut occurred on a 10-gigabyte circuit that was installed this spring to help the state handle increased web demand during the coronavirus. She said backup circuits aren’t as large as the main circuit, but plans are in place to upgrade them.