A fiber-optic cable that was severed "accidentally" in Virginia led to multiple state websites going down Tuesday, which has raised concerns with state officials that thousands of voters may have been affected on the state's last day to register to vote. The Virginia Department of Elections told The Washington Post that the cut occurred in the Chester area near Route 10, with department spokeswoman Andrea Gaines saying in a statement, "This has affected the Department's citizen portal along with local registrar's offices across the Commonwealth."
The technologies agency that handles IT for the state added to the Post that the cable was hit on accident overnight during work related to a roadside utility project. "We expect that we'll have some temporary repairs in place so we can restore service in the next couple of hours," said Lindsay LeGrand around 2 p.m. local time.
As repairs are underway, voter advocacy groups and many state officials have called for a court order that would extend the voter registration deadline beyond Tuesday to make up for the lost time. "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. We will work with the Administration to resolve this issue and ensure all voters have access to #Vote," Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax said on Twitter.
Virginia Secretary of Administration Keyanna Conner added during Tuesday's coronavirus briefing she hopes services will be back up and running at some point this afternoon, saying, "We hope to have a temporary solution in place by 4 p.m. that will bring our services back online."
Local election officials tasked with handling the record turnout for early voting in the state complained that the disruption was just another hurdle, as residents called to complain they were unable to register to vote online. Others were forced to suspend early voting. "It's terrible because we're sitting here and we have no idea what's happening," Judy Brown, the general registrar in Loudoun County, told The Washington Post. Brown added that her office was forced to manually confirm the registration status of Loudoun County voters who cast early ballots Tuesday and was prevented to processing voter registration applications and from printing labels needed to mail absentee ballots.
Christine Lewis, the Virginia Beach deputy registrar for elections, added to the Post that people who showed up to vote were offered provisional ballots, but that not many people wanted to cast the ballots typically counted last in an election. "They want to wait for the system to come up, and they want to vote on our machines," Lewis said. "It's affecting everyone. Just because one wire got cut."