“This has implications for the department’s citizen portal as well as the offices of local registrars across the Commonwealth,” department spokeswoman Andrea Gaines said in a statement.
A spokeswoman for the Virginia Information Technology Agency, which provides IT services for the state, said the cable was accidentally struck overnight while working on a road utility project.
“We assume that we will do some temporary repairs so that we can restore service in the next few hours,”
Meanwhile, electoral groups, along with some current and former state officials, had requested a court order to extend the registration deadline for voters beyond Tuesday.
“We will work with the administration to resolve this issue and ensure that all voters have access to #Vote,” said Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax (D) on Twitter.
The disruption was another headache for local election officials who processed tens of thousands of ballots during a record turnout in early voting in Virginia.
Several local polling bureaus said residents had called to complain that they could not register to vote through the election ministry website, while others said they were forced to temporarily suspend early voting.
“It’s awful because we’re sitting here and we have no idea what’s going to happen,” said Judy Brown, the Loudoun County’s general registrar. She said she had no communication from the electoral department about the problem.
Brown said the disruption forced her office to manually confirm the registration status of voters in Loudoun County who cast their vote early Tuesday.
The problem also prevented Loudoun election officials from processing voter registration applications and printing labels needed to send out postal ballot papers, Brown said.
In Fairfax, district officials said the severed cable would not affect the early voting process but would hinder voter registration.
Virginia Beach officials said the issue prevented them from processing early ballots.
Christine Lewis, the city’s deputy electoral chancellor, said voters who showed up to vote Tuesday morning were given the option to fill out preliminary ballot papers instead, which are usually the last to be counted in an election. At 11:30 a.m., there were fewer than 20 takers, Lewis said.
“They want to wait for the system to come up and they want to vote on our machines,” said Lewis, adding that she didn’t know how long it would take.
“It affects everyone,” she said of the multiple websites that were not working. “Just because a wire was cut.”
Given the tensions surrounding the election campaign between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, as well as several Congressional races in Virginia, voter supporters criticized and recalled the Northam administration for failing to do more to prevent disruption a crash of the state computer system on the eve of the 2016 election.
Kristen Clarke, president of the Civil Rights Lawyers’ Committee, noted that her organization sued Virginia in 2016 over the problem earlier that year, forcing the state to extend its registration deadline.
“Virginia election officials have once again failed the public,” Clarke said in a statement that predicted that “tens of thousands” of voters would be unable to cast ballots due to the disruption on Tuesday. “It’s amazing Virginia hasn’t learned from mistakes in the not-too-distant past.”
Former Governor Terry McAuliffe (D), who was the chief executive of the state when the problem arose in 2016, agreed to the organization.
“The courts in Virginia must take immediate action to give the Virgins a legal opportunity to vote,” said McAuliffe, who recently formed a campaign committee for another gubernatorial run next year, in a statement.