By: Allen Coon
It was an early Tuesday morn when the Commonwealth awoke to an October surprise all of its own: on October 12th, the last day for eligible Virginians to register to vote in the November 3rd General Election, a Chesterfield County utilities crew accidentally severed a cable providing online connectivity for multiple Commonwealth agencies—including the Virginia Department of Elections. Prospective voters who had hoped to register or update their registration online were denied the option, with no alternative but to register in-person by 5:00 p.m.
In October 2016, when a similar technological malfunction prevented applicants from registering online, such a glitch may have posed a burden for citizens with limited or no transportation access or employment flexibility. Now, during a global pandemic, the unavailability of online registration also required all in-person applicants—and specifically elderly, poor, disabled, and minority Virginians (all vulnerable populations)—to unnecessarily risk exposure to COVID-19.