The Virginia Department of Elections (ELECT) discovered 149,000 more voter transactions that got stuck in an online system between the Department of Motor Vehicles and local registrars who needed to process them. The Monday announcement comes just over a week before Election Day, and after the same problem caused delays in processing 107,000 transactions, discovered earlier in October.
The delayed transactions include voter registrations, address updates, and other changes made through the DMV from May through September. ELECT External Affairs Manager Andrea Gaines said thanks to Virginia’s same-day voter registration law, would-be voters have been able to update and correct their information, enabling them to vote.
“ELECT identified the additional transactions by conducting a review after several voters came to vote who had not had their information updated. In each case, the voter’s information was updated onsite by the general registrar, and the voter proceeded to vote,” ELECT said in its press release.
“I am very grateful for the vigilance of Virginia’s general registrars in quickly surfacing concerns during early voting,” Elections Commissioner Susan Beals said. “With information from local officials, ELECT’s IT professionals were able to scour the election system data to identify the additional transactions for processing. I’m pleased that all affected voters are able to vote and that anyone with questions or concerns can reach out to us directly so that we may assist them as we near Election Day.”
ELECT has also offered staffing help to local registrars who are processing the transactions. The Fairfax County Office of Elections reported Monday that the latest batch of delayed transactions included over 11,000 in Fairfax; the office is working to process them by Election Day. The City of Norfolk Office of Elections received over 3,400 new transactions, according to Senate Privileges and Elections Chair Lionel Spruill (D-Chesapeake), who talked to the city’s registrar.
Less populous regions have also received relatively large numbers of new transactions; Gaines said that the records were spread across Virginia proportionally to the size of the locality.
“Powhatan received 353 updated records to process this morning,” Powhatan County General Registrar Karen Alexander told The Virginia Star. “This is a lot for our tiny two-person staff, but small potatoes compared to other larger localities. It’s most definitely a strain on our staff the week before the election when we need to be focusing our efforts on early voting and Election Day prep instead.”
Alexander recommends that voters immediately verify their registration status at: https://vote.elections.virginia.gov/VoterInformation/Lookup/status
When the problem was first discovered at ELECT earlier this month, Spruill sent a letter to Beals asking for an explanation of the problem; in response, Beals cited Virginia’s 15-year-old voter registration system and changes to election laws that have strained the system’s capabilities. Spruill responded October 22 with another letter asking for an explanation and if the system is now working correctly. He also asked for explanation of a printing error that sent incorrect voting location information to thousands of Northern Virginia voters.
“While the changes to our laws were made before you were the Commissioner of Elections, the Department was given over two years to implement changes for same day registration and sixteen-year-old pre-registration. The state did not mishandle over 100,000 registrations after redistricting changes in prior decades where the Commonwealth normally had a significantly shorter time to make decisions given that redistricting was normally finalized in April or May before a November election, not a full year before the election,” Spruill wrote. “It is disingenuous for Governor Youngkin to blame these problems on a Governor after he has been in office for ten months as he did last week.”
On Monday, Spruill told The Star, “The problem with the IT glitch between Virginia DMV and the Department of Elections has not been resolved. We do not blame Commissioner Beals, who is dealing with this, but somebody needs to speak with the IT department and Virginia DMV, the Department of Elections, and VITA [Virginia IT Agency] to determine how this happened, who dropped the ball, and ensure this will not happen again.”
According to Spruill, Beals said the problem is not with the DMV, but with the IT department and the DMV.
Some Democratic voices have blamed Youngkin’s administration for the problem. Spruill said, “I do agree with her [Beals], it ain’t just doing it just now because Youngkin became governor. It’s been going on for a couple of years.”
Virginia recently announced a contract to build a new voter registration, but that’s not expected to go live before 2025.
Spruill said that he’s planning meetings with key stakeholders to address the problems in the current system, but he’s waiting to hold the meetings until after the current election in an effort to avoid politicizing the problem.
He’s heard from registrars across the commonwealth who are dealing with the backlogs and, in some cases, sending out duplicate information to make sure voters are able to vote.
“We’re going to have everything resolved by this Tuesday. But then we’ve got to fix the problem and the issues that we have going forward,” he said.
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