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We sued to extend Virginia’s voter registration deadline. Now voters must use it!

October 15, 2020

Growing up on a dirt road south of Lovettsville in Loudoun County, I never once dreamed of suing my home state government. But I did just that this week to extend the voter registration deadline to Today, Thursday, October 15 for all Virginia voters. I was part of a team of lawyers representing several of Virginia’s great civic engagement groups. We sued because something unusual happened Tuesday: a vast swath of Virginia’s online services went dark because one construction crew, installing a sewer line in Chesterfield County, cut through a fiber optic cable. This one damaged cable took down the entire state’s online voter registration system for most of the day. And now, it is critical that Virginia voters use this deadline extension to register to vote, then check to make sure their friends and neighbors are registered, too.

The 2020 election will be one of the most important elections of our lifetime, and it is important that every voter who wants to cast a ballot register by tonight. Initial state data indicates that voter turnout during early voting was robust, with Virginia voters experiencing long lines due to increased voter enthusiasm.  Voters who wish to register online must do so by 11:59 p.m. tonight or by 5:00 pm if registering at their local registrar’s office. Paper registration forms placed in the mail must be postmarked by today. I timed it, and filling out the paper form takes one minute and forty-eight seconds. The online application is even faster. Registering to vote allows Virginia voters to have a say in the governance of their communities, their schools, and the conditions in which they raise families. Now, more than ever, it is critical that every eligible Virginian has the opportunity to make their voice heard at the ballot box and participate in our democracy.

To be sure, registering to vote might seem like a low-on-the-to-do-list kind of thing, especially since we’re living through two epidemics right now: COVID-19 and white supremacy. It is abundantly clear that our Black and Brown communities are bearing the brunt of both epidemics this year. Over 215,000 people have died from COVID-19 in this country, and we know that here in Virginia, our Black and Latinx communities have been dealing with disproportionate infection and death rates. Pervasive white supremacy reinforces the racist impact of factors driving this awful reality. Disparate healthcare access, the housing crisis, and economic inequality are all disparities that have been laid bare by the pandemic. Our news feeds have been filled with traumatic footage and news of police killings of people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and so many more. In the face of all that, going through the motions of getting registered to vote can seem irrelevant to the bigger problems at hand.

But, we need to build power to win transformative change when it comes to racial justice, police brutality, and economic inequality. Voting is the simplest way to get started building power right where you live.

This year in Virginia, we are selecting our next President, Congressional delegation as well as a pair of amendments to the Virginia constitution. In 2021, voters will elect state and local leadership from city sheriffs  to governor. Our team of lawyers sued to make sure that every eligible voter in the Commonwealth got a fair chance to have their say on these huge decisions.

I’m asking you to take advantage of this extension to the voter registration deadline. Make sure you are registered to vote and check your registration to ensure your registration is up to date. Then show your neighbor or friend you care about them too, and ask them to check their registration. Tell them it took this kid from Lovettsville less than two minutes to do it. Here’s the link:

Jess Unger is a Staff Attorney at Advancement Project National Office.