Voting Rights Organizations File Lawsuit to Extend Virginia’s Voter Registration After Statewide Voting System Failure
ALEXANDRIA, Va.– Tonight, a coalition of voting rights groups filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia against the Virginia Department of Elections and the Virginia State Board of Elections to extend Virginia’s voter registration deadline after the Commonwealth’s voting systems went down earlier today, the last day that Virginians can register to vote.
The lawsuit was filed this evening by Virginia Civic Engagement Table, New Virginia Majority, League of Women Voters of Virginia, Advancement Project National Office, and Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. The groups are seeking to extend the online voter registration deadline for 48 hours after the system is restored and are asking Virginia to undertake a public campaign to help notify Virginians of this change. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signaled he would support a court-ordered extension of the deadline at a press conference this afternoon.
The groups are also seeking a one-day extension of Virginia’s early voting period, as the outage also interfered with early voting; some individuals attempting to early vote today were instead only offered the opportunity to fill out a provisional ballot. The groups suggest that, in order to provide adequate relief for impacted voters, Virginia must implement an additional day of early voting and take affirmative steps to ensure that the provisional ballots that were cast today are counted.
“Virginians’ voting rights shouldn’t be hanging by a fiber-optic cable,” said Jorge Vasquez, Power and Democracy Director of Advancement Project National Office. “Extending the registration and early voting deadlines is the only way that Virginia can adequately address the harm this outage has caused to voters. We know the Commonwealth recognizes that this mishap has interfered with Virginians’ fundamental right to vote; we’re calling on Virginia to do right by its voters.”
“The Commonwealth failed the public and it must grant a significant extension to ensure all Virginians are given an equal opportunity to exercise their fundamental right to vote,” said Kristen Clarke, President and Executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. “Extending the registration deadline is a common-sense step that can be taken to address the potential disenfranchisement of thousands of eligible people across Virginia. This now marks two presidential election cycles in a row in which the state’s registration system has collapsed and we hope that this will counsel in favor of stronger systems and backstops to prevent mass disenfranchisement in the future.”
“All Virginians who are eligible to vote have a right to make their voices heard in our democracy, and the state has an obligation to ensure that all eligible voters have that access,” said Irene Shin, Executive Director of the Virginia Civic Engagement Table. “We’re not asking for anything more than for the courts and the Board of Elections to fix what was broken today. In order to right this wrong, the Board of Elections must grant an extension of the deadline.”
“Our democracy is strongest when we all have an opportunity to participate in our free and fair elections,” said Tram Nguyen, co-Executive Director of New Virginia Majority. “The system-wide failure impacted Virginians across the Commonwealth, preventing people from registering to vote for the first time or updating their registrations, and prevented many voters from casting a regular ballot during in-person early voting. To ensure that every Virginian has an opportunity to participate in our democracy, it is imperative that the court provides the requested relief for those affected. Just as we have done in the past, New Virginia Majority will continue to defend Virginians’ access to the ballot box.”
“This is not the first time Virginia has had glitches with its voter registration website during prime times. With more than 5 million eligible voters in Virginia, it is crucial that the system can handle this large volume in voter interest,” said Deb Wake, President of the League of Women Voters of Virginia. “Voters must not be silenced due to technical difficulties. The League is stepping in to make sure voters are given the opportunities they deserve to exercise their right to vote in this important election.”
Advancement Project National Office is a next-generation, multi-racial civil rights organization. Rooted in the great human rights struggles for equality and justice, we exist to fulfill America’s promise of a caring, inclusive and just democracy. We use innovative tools and strategies to strengthen social movements and achieve high impact policy change. Visit www.advancementproject.org/home to learn more.
About the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law – The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law (Lawyers’ Committee), a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, was formed in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to involve the private bar in providing legal services to address racial discrimination. The principal mission of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law is to secure, through the rule of law, equal justice for all, particularly in the areas of voting rights, criminal justice, fair housing and community development, economic justice, educational opportunities, and hate crimes. For more information, please visit https://lawyerscommittee.org.
The Virginia Civic Engagement Table is a statewide organization that serves a broad network of partners across the Commonwealth with a concentration in Northern Virginia, greater Richmond, and the tidewater region (which includes Newport News, Hampton Roads, Virginia Beach). Our work is rooted in advancing economic, social, environmental, gender, and especially racial justice, as fundamental values that can end systems of oppression. For more information, visit our website.
New Virginia Majority builds power in working-class communities of color, in immigrant communities, among LGBTQ people, women, youth, and progressives across the Commonwealth. We organize for racial and economic justice through large-scale political education, mobilization and advocacy around dozens of issues. We fight for a Virginia that is just, democratic and environmentally sustainable. For more information, visit our website and follow us on Twitter and Facebook at @NewVAMajority.
The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan, grassroots civic organization that encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy. With 100 years of experience, the League is one of America’s oldest and most trusted civic nonprofit organizations.