Charlottesville, Albemarle County registrars work through challenges of statewide outage

Statewide outage puts registrars in a pickle

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - It’s back up and running now, but a damaged Verizon fiber cable near Richmond, and the ripple effect, shut down the Virginia Voter Registration system and the online DMV system, along with other agencies.

To make matters worse, Tuesday is the last day to register to vote in the commonwealth ahead of the election.

“It is sort of a double whammy," Albemarle County Registrar Jake Washburne said. "Thank goodness it didn’t happen on Election Day!”

On the last day to register to vote and early voting day in Albemarle County, Washburne woke up to trouble.

“We all got here about 6 a.m. and found that we could not access the statewide voter registration database so we couldn’t download the data to load our electronic poll books that are the things that allow us to check in the voters," he said.

For most of the morning, Albemarle poll workers gave voters the option to either check back the next day or complete a provisional ballot.

“It’s a bit time consuming and you don’t get that nice satisfaction of seeing your ballot go into the scanning machine and drop since it’s a provisional ballot,” Washburne said.

Eventually, Albemarle’s election staff found a way to access the poll books and allow in-person early voting again, but the online registration citizen portal was still down for much of the day. This forced many to register to vote in person in order to meet the deadline.

“That’s a serious concern,” Washburne said. "A lot of people do kind of wait to the last minute.”

In the city of Charlottesville, Registrar Melissa Morton says in-person voting was slower than usual.

“We had to go to a backup system which we used a paper poll book to check voters in," she said. "It did slow us down having to check in every voter.”

Morton says the city election office did not experience the same online registration issues on the scale that Albemarle County’s office did.

“We haven’t seen any issues with it since this morning,” she said. "We’ve had a lot of phone calls and a lot of voters show up to register.”

Now the call is being made by politicians and advocacy groups whether to extend the registration deadline.

“One year in the past because of a data problem like this, the registration deadline was extended," Washburne said. "That’s a decision they’ll have to make in the Department of Elections, but it wouldn’t surprise me given the situation.”

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