RICHMOND, Va., Oct. 20 (UPI) -- A federal judge on Thursday ordered a 36-hour extension for people to register to vote in Virginia after the state's board of elections website crashed on Monday, the final day to register in time for the Nov. 8 election.
Federal District Judge Claude Hilton announced the decision, saying voters deserved more time after they tried to register online, but were denied the opportunity due to technical problems.
Hilton ordered the election commission to reopen the site and continue accepting online and in-person registration requests through midnight Friday. Mail-in registrations must be postmarked Friday.
A civil rights group sued the commonwealth, seeking a 72-hour extension, presenting as plaintiffs several individuals who said they tried to register online Monday but were unable to do so. Hilton split the difference, saying voters were owed "some relief" for being denied the last-minute chance to register, but declining to extend the deadline further "just for the sake of extending [it]."
Virginia Elections Commissioner Edgardo Cortes said the site experienced an unprecedented surge in traffic as the registration deadline approached, causing it to crash. He said there was no indication the problems were due to external hacking, only the number of people trying to register at once.
The surge in voter registration is not limited to Virginia, however. The nation as a whole passed a milestone this week. For the first time in U.S. history there are more than 200 million people registered to vote.
That number is up substantially from just four years ago, when there were 153.1 million registered voters. According to census data, there were 235.2 million adults eligible to vote in the country in 2012, meaning there were more than 80 million eligible people who were not registered.
The electorate in 2016 will also be the most diverse in presidential election history. According to the Pew Research Center, the total percentage of the electorate that is white/non-Hispanic is projected to be 69 percent, meaning 31 percent of the electorate will be a racial minority.