A federal judge has extended Virginia’s voter registration deadline, according to state officials.
Judge Claude Hilton of Virginia’s Eastern District Court has ruled to extend the deadline until 11:59 p.m. on Friday, according to the Virginia attorney general’s office.
A civil rights group had filed a federal lawsuit earlier this week amid reported crashes on the commonwealth’s voter registration website in the hours leading up to Monday’s original deadline.
Staff members at local registrar’s offices said now that word is getting out about the extension, they expect to be a lot busier as the new deadline approaches.
“Anytime that somebody really asks to be allowed to enter into that voting process, they should be given as many opportunities as possible,” said Dustin Prisley, who visited the Roanoke registrar’s office to cast his absentee ballot.
At first the Department of Elections announced there would be no extension, but a federal judge ruled otherwise late Thursday morning.
“We’ve had several, several calls, people coming in to register, and then the DMV online registration is up,” said Dana Oliver, Salem director of elections.
According to Edgardo Cortes, Virginia elections commissioner, more than 21,000 people registered to vote online on Monday, the original deadline for the November election, but many reported problems with the website.
“We just had such an overwhelming response from voters,” Cortes said. “It was just unprecedented activity levels, and our system just couldn’t handle the amount of people coming on.”
While there have been some improvements made, the commissioner warned there has not been much time to make significant changes to the voter registration website.
“We have kind of redirected where some things go to take load off of some of our servers,” he said. “We’re in the process right now of upgrading a different server.”
If the website malfunctions, Cortes said, visitors will see a new message telling them about other ways to register to vote. Those include visiting your local registrar’s office, going to a state agency such as the DMV or sending in an application by mail, as long as it is postmarked by the deadline, he explained.
“We know there’s going to be work to do after this election to make sure that all of our systems are able to handle the demand,” Cortes said.
The Department of Elections will keep its phone lines open for questions up until the deadline, according to the department’s website.