Voter registration went down statewide in Virginia on Tuesday, the last day to register to vote before Election Day, the state Department of Elections reported. The state board attributed the problem to a fiber that was cut near the state’s data center and claimed it was accidental.
However, the problem threw election operations into serious disarray and sparked panic online, with hundreds of people asking a question that quickly began to trend on Twitter: “How do you ‘accidentally’ do something like this?”
Here’s what you need to know:
Local News Reported the Issue at 10:30 a.m., Sparking Panic Online
The entire voter registration system went down Tuesday morning, local CBS affiliate WUSA 9 reported.
The fiber or cable was cut near Route 10 in Chester, the outlet added. It was unclear how it came to be cut or if police or federal authorities were investigating.
“This morning we were alerted by VITA that a fiber cut near the Commonwealth Enterprise Solutions Center was impacting data circuits and VPN connectivity for multiple agencies,” the Department of Elections said. “This has affected the citizen portal along with registrar’s offices.”
The Department of Elections added that they had technicians on site trying to repair the cut cable.
Many online found themselves asking the same questions, given recent concerns over voter disenfranchisement and attempted fraud, long poll lines in Georgia and unfounded claims by President Trump of widespread vote-by-mail fraud.
“These are not coincidental,” actress and activist Sophia Bush said. “This is voter suppression.”
Writer and podcaster Ed Burmila joked at the seeming rash of hazards and obstructions being placed between people and the voting booth this early voting season.
“Hearing reports that voting machines were accidentally placed atop greased flagpoles surrounded by pits of cobras,” Burmila said. “Here’s what we know so far: You absolutely cannot outrun a cobra
“The U.S. is a kangaroo republic,” attorney and author Arjun Sethi concluded.
Heavy reached out to the Department of Elections for comment and to see if authorities were investigating, but they declined to comment further than their original release.
Until the Issue Is Fixed, Voters Who Can’t Be Checked in the Poll Books Will Need to Use Provisional Ballots
Albemarle County, in central Virginia, said that any voters who needed to register or could not be verified in the poll books would need to fill out provisional ballots until the problem was fixed.
“Statewide voter registration system is currently down,” a county spokesperson wrote. “This means that any voter coming to vote early in-person can not be checked in on the poll books and will only be able to vote a provisional ballot. We will let you know when the system is back up & running.”
Provisional ballots are used to ensure voters whose eligibility is “uncertain,” the National Conference of State Legislatures wrote. Those ballots are held separate until after the election, when it is decided whether the voter was eligible.
Governor Ralph Northam Said He Could Not Extend the Voter Registration Deadline After Tuesday’s Outage Himself
On Tuesday afternoon, ABC’s Maggi Marshall reported that Governor Ralph Northam had announced he did not have the authority to extend the voter registration deadline, despite the outage.
Northam would, however, consider a a court order suspension of the deadline if it was presented to him, she reported. Virginia public radio reporter Roberto Roldan confirmed he was open to a court order.
The Democratic Coalition earlier on Tuesday asked Northam in a tweet to, “Please extend voter registration until tomorrow because someone ‘accidentally’ cut a cable that took down the system.”