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October 13, 2020

State IT systems offline because of sliced cable

By Graham Moomaw
Virginia Mercury

A severed fiber cable near the state government’s Chesterfield County data center caused Virginia’s voter registration system and several other computerized functions to fail Tuesday morning, according to officials.

The outage came on the last day to register to vote in Virginia, as officials and civic groups were putting out last-minute calls directing people to sign up on a website that wasn’t functioning properly.

State officials said they were working to repair the cable and bring everything back online, but the systems appeared to be down for at least several hours.

The Virginia Information Technologies Agency addressed the issue in a tweet posted around 9 a.m., saying workers were “on site” and “updates will be provided as work progresses.” VITA officials did not immediately respond to questions about what happened to the cable. The agency had not posted an update as of 10:20 a.m.

VITA said the cut was “impacting data circuits and virtual private network (VPN) connectivity for multiple Commonwealth agencies.”

That included the Virginia DMV and the Virginia Department of Health, whose online COVID-19 dashboard was down. The DMV said it was unable to process transactions and any appointments customers had made would have to be rescheduled.

The Virginia Employment Commission, currently dealing with a surge of out-work people seeking assistance during the pandemic, said it too was “unable to perform many agency functions at this time.”

In addition to impeding voter registration, the outage affected early voting, which involves election officials checking voters’ eligibility against a state database.

The Virginia Beach registrar’s office posted a Facebook notice saying voters showing up to vote in person would have to cast a provisional ballot, meaning a ballot that will be set aside until officials can verify the voter’s eligibility.

The state’s voter registration has had problems at the deadline before. In 2016, a traffic surge caused the website to crash, prompting a federal judge to order the state to reopen its registration window to accommodate people who may have been locked out.

It wasn’t immediately clear Tuesday if that might be considered as a remedy for the IT outage.

Anyone trying to register online can still go to their local registrar’s office to fill out a paper form.

Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax took to Twitter to call for the deadline to be extended, saying he intended to work with Gov. Ralph Northam’s administration “to resolve this issue and ensure all voters have access.”
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Santhasing247 · October 15, 2020 at 8:45 am
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AngryBob · October 13, 2020 at 1:08 pm
Ack! I just tried to make a DMV appointment and the site is down! Now instead of three months to get my new plates it's going to be 3 months + a day!
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