Virginians who couldn’t register to vote because a state website crashed were given one more chance to sign up after a federal judge on Thursday ordered the state to reopen the voter registration period until 11:59 p.m. Friday. The court ruling, welcomed by Democrats and Republicans, was brought about by a lawsuit filed Tuesday by a civil rights group arguing that potentially thousands of Virginians had been affected by major problems with the state’s online voter registration system ahead of Monday’s registration deadline. Gov. Terry McAuliffe said earlier this week that he couldn’t extend the deadline himself because it’s fixed in state law. The office of Attorney General Mark R. Herring did not contest the lawsuit. During a brief hearing in Alexandria, U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton refused to approve a longer extension favored by state officials and the Washington-based Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, the group that brought the case. Hilton was asked to extend the registration period until midnight Monday. The judge agreed accommodations should be made to fix the problem but said a five-day extension seemed needlessly long.
“I don’t think it should be used to extend the period of time beyond what the legislature provided here just for the sake of extending something,” Hilton said.
The Attorney General’s Office and a lawyer for the plaintiffs said a longer extension would reduce the chances of another website crash and additional court proceedings.
“The thinking is we’ll provide ample time so it will spread the burden on the network over the weekend and into Monday,” said John A. Freedman, an attorney with law firm Arnold & Porter LLP, which helped bring the case. “If the system crashes again, we’ll have to deal with it,” Hilton said.