RICHMOND, Va.—A severed fiber optic cable shut down Virginia’s online voter registration system Tuesday, the last day to register before the November general election.
The Virginia Department of Elections said in a statement on Twitter that a “fiber cut” was affecting connectivity for multiple agencies, including the citizen portal and registrar’s offices, and technicians were working to repair the problem.
The Virginia Information Technologies Agency said in a tweet that the cable was inadvertently cut during a Chesterfield County roadside utilities project but had no estimate on when it would be repaired.
Andrea Gaines, a department spokeswoman, said in an email that the cut occurred in the Chester area near Route 10.
“Verizon technicians are on site and working to repair the cut; updates will be provided as work progresses,” she said.
The Washington Post reported that election officials in northern Virginia have been forced to register voters using paper forms.
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.
The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which filed the 2016 lawsuit on the voter group’s behalf, swiftly condemned state officials for the disruption Tuesday.
Kristen Clarke, executive director of the committee, said in a statement that Virginia election officials “have again failed the public.”
“This error is particularly astounding given that this same problem occurred at virtually the same time in 2016,” she said. “It is astonishing that Virginia has not learned from failures of the not-so-distant past.”