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1 Extending Voter Registration because of a Website Crash 1 (2020)

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CASE STUDIES IN EMERGENCY ELECTION LITIGATION


                 Extending Voter Registration
                   Because of a Website Crash
               New   Virginia  Majority  Education   Fund
                  v. Virginia Department of   Elections
         (Claude  M.  Hilton, 1:16-cv-1319)   and  New  Virginia
         Majority  Education   Fund  v. Virginia Department of
         Elections (John A. Gibney,  Jr., 3:20-cv-801) (E.D.  Va.)
       On  the last day of voter registration in 2016, a commonwealth's
       online registration website crashed, and commonwealth officials
       had no authority to extend the registration deadline as a remedy.
       Two  organizations and two prospective voters filed a federal com-
       plaint, and the district judge granted a brief extension to voter reg-
       istration, to which state officials agreed. Again in 2020, a federal
       district judge granted a registration extension because the website
       crashed on the last day of registration.
           Subject: Registration procedures. Topics: Registration
       procedures; voting technology.
In 2016 and in 2020, Virginia's voter registration website crashed on the last
day of registration, and Virginia's election officials needed a court order to
extend the registration deadline.
2016
Heavy  use of Virginia's online voter registration site on Monday, October 17,
2016, the deadline for the November 8 general election, caused the system to
crash temporarily.1 On October  18, two organizations and two  prospective
voters who were  unable to register because of the crash filed a federal com-
plaint in the Eastern District of Virginia's Alexandria courthouse against
state election officials asking the court to order reopening of online voter
registration in Virginia for three days.2 With their complaint, the plaintiffs
filed an emergency motion for a preliminary injunction.3
    On  October  19, Judge Claude  M.  Hilton set the case for hearing on
Thursday  morning,  October  20.4 According  to news  media,  Gov. Terry
McAuliffe  said Wednesday   he agreed with the lawsuit's request to extend
voter registration and had asked Attorney  General Mark  Herring  to reach


   1. See Graham Moomaw,  Suit: Extend Va.'s Voter Registration, Richmond Times-
Dispatch, Oct. 19, 2016, at IA.
   2. Complaint, New Va. Majority Educ. Fund v. Va. Dep't of Elections, No. 1:16-cv-1319
(E.D. Va. Oct. 18, 2016), D.E. 1; see Moomaw, supra note 1; Laura Vozzella, Lawsuit Filed to
Extend Va.'s Voter Registration, Wash. Post, Oct. 19, 2016, at B1; Patrick Wilson, Group Files
Lawsuit Against Virginia Election Officials Over Voter Registration Crash, Norfolk Virginian-
Pilot, Oct. 20, 2016, at 4.
   3. Preliminary Injunction Motion, New Va. Majority Educ. Fund, No. 1:16-cv-1319 (E.D.
Va. Oct. 18, 2016), D.E. 3.
   4. Docket Sheet, id. (Oct. 18, 2016).


Federal Judicial Center 10/19/2020


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