RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — One week before Election Day, local officials are scrambling for a second time to update piles of voter information that the state failed to transfer for months.
Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Governor Glenn Youngkin said he was frustrated by the problem. He continued to blame an outdated system and pledged to order an after-action report to get to the bottom of what happened.
The Virginia Department of Elections (ELECT) said in a press release this week that the latest issue is directly related to a previously reported computing error involving the statewide voter registration system.
The state was previously aware of 107,000 voter records from the Department of Motor Vehicles that were affected by the glitch. ELECT recently identified another 149,000 impacted records and sent them to general registrars for processing.
“I had thought that we had cleaned out all of the leftover records from the summer that hadn’t been processed. They found some more that had been processed through that the system didn’t pick up,” Governor Youngkin said.
State officials said eligible voters impacted by the glitch will still be able to cast a ballot but the delay is increasing the workload for local election officials at the last minute. ELECT said they’re offering additional staff assistance to general registrars upon request.
Hanover County’s General Registrar Teresa Smithson said staff worked overtime on Monday to process over 1,000 voter registration applications that arrived that morning.
“We will be working after hours this week to catch up,” echoed Henrico’s General Registrar Mark Coakley.
Chesterfield’s General Registrar Missy Vera said the backlog of roughly 2,000 records is “not a huge impact” for her office.
“We just need to shift some people to focus on processing those applications and getting the voter cards sent out,” Vera said.
Richmond’s General Registrar Keith Balmer said they plan to get through roughly 3,500 new records by close-of-business on Wednesday.
“No one is prepared to have a bunch of applications dropped into their lap just days before an election. It’s a pain but it’s a manageable pain,” Balmer said. “We all need a deeper dive into what exactly happened because no registrar ever wants to go through this again.”
Balmer said he first noticed an unusual drop in voter applications as early as June. He said he never reported it to the state but other local election officials did.
Democrats like Delegate Mark Sickles have argued that the document dump was preventable. He said, unlike in previous years, no one recognized that information wasn’t being transferred because the Youngkin administration lost key people with experience overseeing the system.
The Department of Elections didn’t respond to multiple interview requests on Tuesday.
Former Election Commissioner Chris Piper said he never experienced a transferring issue of this magnitude but he said it’s too soon to place blame.
“I haven’t seen anything that explains exactly what occurred,” Piper said. “I don’t know that it is fair at this point to place blame anywhere and I think that it does require a further review.”
Meanwhile, Youngkin is blaming past leaders for failing to replace Virginia’s Election and Registration Information System (VERIS), which has a long history of problems.
“The reality is we inherited a system that was broken and, in fact, it had never been dealt with. We’ve been using Band-Aids and Scotch tape in order to hold everything together,” Youngkin said. “The system was supposed to have been done before I came in. It wasn’t. It hadn’t even been procured. We’ve now procured it. It’s going to have to be implemented appropriately and quickly.”
Piper said they moved as fast as possible and followed the steps recommended in a state watchdog report.
“The money was not allocated until 2021. I just don’t see how it is possible for the previous administration to be able to replace that system that quickly,” Piper said.
Any voter who has a question about their voter registration status or polling place can check the Department of Elections website at vote.virginia.gov or call 804-864-8901 and dial 0.