ACLU: Virginia needs to follow law on voter registration snafu

aclu virginiaThe ACLU of Virginia is pressing the state’s top election official to take immediate corrective action after the portal to register online to vote crashed for many users in the days leading up to Monday’s original cutoff.

In a letter today to Virginia Department of Elections Commissioner Edgardo Cortés, ACLU of Virginia Executive Director Claire Guthrie Gastañaga pointed to two separate sections of Virginia code that compel the department to move quickly to repair any harm done by the website failure.

“We know that you agree that voting is the fundamental right in our democracy without which other rights may not exist,” the letter states. “We urge you to take all possible steps to ensure that eligible Virginians who sought to register on the ‘final day of registration’ but were unable to do so are now permitted to complete their applications.”

One section of state law cited in the letter requires the department to operate and maintain equipment to support the statewide voter registration system at all times. This would include the online registration system which the General Assembly authorized in 2013.

The second code section cited requires registrars to collect the names of persons standing in line to register or change their information in the system at the time the registrar’s office is to close on the last day of registration and allow them to complete their registration at a later time. For purposes of online voting, the department itself serves as a registrar, according to the letter.

“Under this ‘final day of registration’ statute, you have the obligation to take steps to determine whether there were people ‘in line’ online at midnight on Monday evening who should be permitted to complete their applications or make any necessary changes to their registration records,” the letter states.

The ACLU-VA’s letter suggests that the department already may have information about the identities of many who were unable to register online, as the website collects unique IP addresses, date and time of visits and pages visited of everyone who uses the site, according to the site’s privacy policy. However, this information may not have been collected from all individuals attempting to register online because of the website failure.

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