- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said Tuesday that he is seeking to extend the commonwealth’s voter registration deadline after a severed Verizon fiber optic cable shut down the online registration portal and other state government websites.

“We’re looking at all our options,” Mr. Northam said during an afternoon news conference in Richmond.

The Democratic governor said he lacks the authority to extend the registration deadline on his own, noting that the deadline is “set in the state code.” He said that it will require “working with the courts” to extend the deadline.

Tuesday was the final day to register to vote in-person, online or by mail in Virginia.

Earlier Tuesday, Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax also called for an extension of the deadline.

“I am officially calling for Virginia’s Registration Deadline to be extended beyond today due to the service outages impacting voters’ ability to register statewide,” Mr. Fairfax, a Democrat, tweeted. “We will work with the Administration to resolve this issue and ensure all voters have access to #Vote.”

Voting rights advocates criticized state officials for the registration portal shutdown, saying it came at the worst possible time. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law said it already is considering legal action to ask a judge to extend the registration deadline.

Just before 10 a.m., the Virginia Department of Elections tweeted about the shutdown, saying that “a fiber [optic cable] cut near the Commonwealth Enterprise Solutions Center was impacting data circuits and VPN connectivity for multiple agencies.”

The statement also said technicians were working on a repair. It was not clear how the fiber cable cut, or how many agencies were affected.

The Virginia Information Technologies Agency tweeted that “the fiber was inadvertently struck as part of activities associated with a roadside utilities project” in Chesterfield County. The agency did not provide a timeline for when the cable would be repaired.

Andrea Gaines, a spokeswoman for the Department of Elections, said in an email to The Associated Press that the cut occurred near Route 10.

Verizon technicians are on site and working to repair the cut; updates will be provided as work progresses,” Ms. Gaines wrote.

Secretary of Administration Keyanna Conner said during the news conference that a 10-gigabyte circuit was cut, adding that the circuit had recently been added to accommodate an increase in internet traffic due to the coronavirus. She said officials were optimistic that a temporary fix would be in place by 4 p.m. Tuesday and were working with Verizon for a permanent fix.

Mr. Northam added that state officials did not have a backup plan for that cable and said the commonwealth needs to develop a secure, reliable system.

“Obviously, we still have a lot of work to do,” the governor said.

This isn’t the first time technical problems affected Virginians’ ability to register to vote under a looming deadline.

In 2016, an unknown number of people were not able to register because of unprecedented demand, in part because of social media postings reminding people of the registration deadline that year.

A voter advocacy group, the New Virginia Majority Education Fund, sued for an extension and a federal judge granted a brief one to make up for the computer glitches that occurred.

⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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