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Civil Rights Groups File Lawsuit Seeking Reopening and Extension of Virginia’s Voter Registration Deadline

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From Progress VA:

Civil Rights Groups File Lawsuit Seeking Reopening and Extension of Virginia’s Voter Registration Deadline


Problems with State’s Online Voter Registration System Lock Out Eligible Virginia Residents Seeking to Register to Vote

Alexandria, Virginia—Tuesday evening the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law filed a complaint in the Northern District Court of Virginia, asking the court to extend Virginia’s voter registration deadline an additional three days. New Virginia Majority Education Fund, the Virginia Civic Engagement Table, and Michael and Kathy Kern of Charlottesville are plaintiffs in the case. Virginia’s voter registration deadline was Monday, October 17th, but the complaint alleges some eligible voters were unable to register that day and thus will not be able to cast a ballot on November 8th because the state’s online voter registration website was unavailable to the public for much of the day. NVMEF and VCET are non-profit organizations engaged in helping voters register. Michael Kern and Kathy Kern were unable to register due to the computer failure. Arnold & Porter LLP are serving as pro-bono counsel in the suit. The suit names the Department of Elections and State Board of Elections as defendants.

A hearing for the suit has not yet been scheduled, but plaintiffs hope for a decision in the next few days.

Statement of Kristen Clarke, president and executive director of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law:

“No voter should be penalized by errors made on the part of state officials.  Our lawsuit seeks to ensure that all aspiring voters in Virginia are given a full and fair opportunity to register and vote this election cycle.  The state failed its citizens when its online registration system collapsed during the most critical moment during the voter registration period.”

Statement of Julie Emery, executive director of the Virginia Civic Engagement Table:

“Virginians who are dealing with work and family obligations and long commutes tried to fit voter registration into their busy day and were prevented from doing so through no fault of their own. If you are in line to vote by the time the polls close you still get to vote because you’ve done your part. The potential voters did their part on Monday. The same principle should apply. They should not be deprived of our most basic civil right due to the system problems of a department that’s been starved of resources.”

Statement of Tram Nguyen, co-executive director of New Virginia Majority Education Fund:

“Voting is at the heart of what it means to be an American. We’ve heard devastating stories from Virginians so excited to participate in this election who were unable to register on Monday due to a technological breakdown, including many recently restored citizens. One individual who reached out to us had his voting rights restored on October 12thand spent hours online on Monday trying unsuccessfully to register to vote. Today we’re asking the court to recognize that just as voters in line to register in-person are allowed to remain in line after 5pm, individuals who were on the voter registration website, sometimes for hours, should be allowed to process their registrations as well.”

Statement of John Freedman, Partner at Arnold & Porter:

“Virginia, like Florida and other states, should extend their voter registration deadline when circumstances unfairly prevent qualified individuals from registering to vote.”