A broken internet cable took down Virginia’s voter registration website hours before the deadline

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In what is fast becoming a pattern for voter registration in the 2020 presidential election, technical difficulties have befallen another state’s voter registration website on the last day citizens can register. This time, Virginians are locked out of the ability to register online.

As of publication time, Virginians hoping to register via the site’s web portal will have to find another means to do so before Wednesday’s 11:59 pm deadline, as the site says it’s “temporarily unavailable” due to a “network outage” that could not come at a worse time. Visitors to the website currently get an error message saying it’s temporarily unavailable but service will be restored “as quickly as possible.”

Screenshot of error message on Virginia’s voter registration website

The problem, according to the state’s Information Technology Agency, is that a fiber optic cable providing internet to the state’s Enterprise Solutions Center was somehow cut, taking the voter registration site down with it.

“A crew working overnight on a roadside utilities project severed fiber cables,” Krys Grondorf of Verizon told Recode. “It was not a Verizon crew that severed the cable — it was a county roadside utilities project.”

“This has affected the Department’s citizen portal along with local registrar’s offices across the Commonwealth,” Andrea Gaines of the Virginia Department of Elections told Recode. “Verizon technicians are on site and working to repair the cut; updates will be provided as work progresses.”

Gaines did not respond to questions about how the cable was cut, how long the outage is expected to last, or what remedies the state will provide to make up for the lost time.

Prospective voters can still register Wednesday by printing out a voter registration form and dropping it off at a voter registration office in person or by mailing it (make sure it’s postmarked October 13).

Last week, Florida’s voter registration website crashed in the final hours of registration. While the Florida secretary of state initially said the outage was brief, it turned out to last for several hours, potentially preventing tens of thousands of registrations. The state ended up extending registration for seven hours the next day, albeit in the middle of the day and with little notice.

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