A civil rights group filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday to force Virginia to extend its voter registration period after the state’s online system crashed Monday, the last day to register, preventing an unknown number of voters from getting on the rolls. One registrar estimated that “tens of thousands” of Virginians had been unable to register by the cutoff at 11:59 p.m. Monday, although the state elections commissioner, Edgardo Cortés, said the number was unknown. The meltdown prompted a Washington-based civil rights group to file the lawsuit on behalf of Kathy and Michael Kern, a Charlottesville couple who tried multiple times Sunday and Monday to register without success. Two nonprofit groups involved in voter-registration drives — New Virginia Majority Education Fund and Virginia Civic Engagement Table — also are plaintiffs.
“The right of eligible Virginians to vote should not be victim to a technological failure that is no fault of their own,” said Kristen Clarke, president of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which is representing the plaintiffs along with attorneys from the Washington firm Arnold & Porter.
The suit, filed Tuesday night in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, names Cortés and other state election officials as defendants.
But Cortés said the deadline is specified in state code, which provides no option for an extension. “We don’t have any legal authority to extend the registration deadline,” he said. Clarke said her group would file a complaint in federal court to compel the state to extend its registration window.