RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Virginia’s elections commissioner told a key Democratic lawmaker that the state is still unsure what caused the network glitch that delayed the processing of voter registration applications.
Local election registrars and their offices are scrambling to process the backlog of applications submitted through the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, some of which have been delayed since last spring after “intermittent network issues” within the Department of Elections.
The Department of Elections gave local election administrators 107,000 DMV transactions, which include new registrations, address updates and other changes, after realizing there was an issue processing the applications.
State Sen. Lionell Spruill Sr. (D-Chesapeake), the chair of the Virginia Senate Privileges and Elections Committee, sent a letter to the state’s Elections Commissioner Susan Beals on Oct. 6 asking what caused the issues.
“ELECT is working with VITA [the Virginia Information Technologies Agency] to conduct an end-to-end analysis of the network to identify the root cause of the issue and cannot provide specific details at this time,” Beals responded in an Oct. 7 letter.
In response to Sen. Spruill’s question about why the issues haven’t occurred before, Beals cited the impact recent changes to Virginia’s election process have had on the state’s voter registration system.
“In the past two years, Virginia has seen unprecedented changes to the way elections are conducted in Virginia,” Beals wrote. “While these legislative changes increased access to the ballot and had a positive impact on voters, many of these bills required significant changes to our aging voter registration system.”
Beals, who Gov. Glenn Youngkin named as elections commissioner in March, added that in 2022 alone the system has been adjusted for redistricting, same-day registration, preregistering 16-year-olds and precinct-level reporting. “Any additional requirements to the system pose significant risks,” she told Spruill.
Two voting rights groups, the League of Women Voters of Virginia and the Fair Elections Center, sent a joint letter to Beals asking her to take steps to comply with the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA).
“NVRA’s clear intent is that applicants who submit valid registration applications through state motor vehicle agencies by the state’s registration deadline must be added to the official voter list in time to vote in the next election,” the Oct. 12 letter reads.
The groups said it would be “inconsistent” with the NVRA to require applicants to use same-day registration and cast a provisional ballot if the registrars haven’t processed the backlog of applications by the Oct. 17 voter registration deadline.
In the letter, the groups call on Beals to continue processing all DMV registration applications past the deadline and add those people to the list of eligible voters.
They also asked her to accept provisional ballots from people voting in person who may not be on the voter rolls due to the delay and to determine if vote-by-mail applications from voters not in the system are acceptable.
Others, including a Loudoun County Supervisor and Herb Jones, a Democrat running against Rep. Rob Wittman (R-Va.) for Virginia’s 1st Congressional District, have called for an extension of the Oct. 17 registration deadline.
With early voting for the midterms already underway in Virginia and redistricting shifting voters to different congressional districts, local registrars said their offices will be working overtime to ensure the applications are processed and people are notified of what’s on their ballot.
The backlog of applications won’t impact voters’ ability to vote, local registrars told 8News, but will increase the workloads of election chiefs and their offices during an already busy time.
A Department of Elections spokesperson said Beals was not available for an interview Tuesday and that there was no additional information regarding the network issues. The spokesperson did not immediately respond when 8News reached out Wednesday.
A spokesperson for Virginia Attorney General Jason Miyares, who created an “Election Integrity” unit within his office, said the AG’s office could not comment on whether the unit was looking into the technical issues that caused the backlog because it serves as counsel to the Department of Elections.