back to article Virginia voter registration website falls over hours before deadline. The Russians? No, a broken fiber line

Virginia's voter registration website fell offline close to the sign-up deadline this week – after fiber-optic cabling was damaged. Construction workers on Route 10, a highway that runs through Chesterfield County, "inadvertently" wrecked an underground Verizon cable on Monday, cutting off access to the website. Disaster …

  1. sanmigueelbeer Silver badge

    Awwww crap. The internet has gone down the toilet. Again.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Only in the Third World..

    Would a major government data centre have a single telco provider with a single fibre, and no resilience or backup in place. Not even diverse fibres from the same provider. At least here in the first world our governments have reliable IT infrastructure and know how to use Excel.

    1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Only in the Third World..

      Indeed, though the ingresses tend to be in the same place so sometimes work near the date centre can take more than one down.

      Of course, it also begs the question why such an important website wasn't colocated?

  3. Giles C Silver badge

    A single fibre into a data centre

    This is akin to me wanting to run a colo service off my home alsl link.

    Surely you would want at least two fibres existing the building from two locations and ideally heading the opposite direction to each other.

    I would expect this to be part of the due diligence when choosing the data centre to use.

    1. A K Stiles
      Black Helicopters

      Re: A single fibre into a data centre

      I suspect (on the basis of no direct evidence) that the choice came down to cheapest supplier / biggest kickback / some flavo(u)r of nepotism. Doesn't it always?

    2. veti Silver badge

      Re: A single fibre into a data centre

      Surely you're not suggesting the good taxpayers of Virginia should pay more than the bare minimum for this service?

  4. veti Silver badge

    No Russians required

    If you wanted to upset the election, it'd be very inefficient to try to orchestrate this sort of thing. It'd take huge resources, terrific planning, and risk a lot of assets being blown because some old lady happened to look out her window at the right moment.

    There's no need for any of that. Cockups will happen without any help from you. If not in Virginia, it might be in Tennessee or Oregon or wherever - doesn't matter. Then you exploit them, by spreading the story and adding a few troll posts on social media. And another handful of people are convinced the fix is in.

  5. Alex Brett

    No idea if this is the case here, but I've seen a scenario where a properly diverse set of ducts were specified and installed (for connectivity to a university), going different routes around the city etc, and then whoever pulled the fibre in ended up pulling both fibres through one duct, which nobody noticed was the case until the duct was hit somewhere...

  6. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    Isn't the whole point of the structure of the internet that if a route breaks it automatically routes around it.

    1. Martin Gregorie

      Indeed, but for the structure of the internet to automatically route around a network break you must have either (a) more than one route to every network node requiring guaranteed always-on connectivity and (b) make sure that the multiple routes are physically separated so that One Man And His Digger can't destroy more than one of the routes at a time.

      A node or data centre with only one cable connection or with all its cables in the same physical duct can't meet that requirement.

      Besides, you left out the obvious requirement that said node or data centre itself needs to be fault tolerant. If it doesn't guarantee something like 99.99% uptime then providing it with guaranteed connectivity is pretty much a waste of time and money.

  7. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Britain solved this 'tech problem'

    ...with pencil and paper.

    Hey, I'm an anarchist but I have never had any doubt in the validity of the British elections, or the stupidity of the British electorate. Why introduce tech?

    [I bought kevlar gloves. They are supposedly 'slash proof'. I have no way of safely testing that claim. I would like to return these gloves as faulty and one thumb down.]

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Britain solved this 'tech problem'

      The problem with the British system is that anybody is allowed to vote.

      By adding extra security measures, like having mandatory voter registration in Latin at the top of a mountain accessible only by Range Rover one can ensure that the peasants who watch Mrs Browns Boys don't interfere with the electoral process

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: Britain solved this 'tech problem'

      This isn't about voting but about registering to vote which is a separate step in the US, somewhat akin to the abortive poll tax. Whereas in most countries as soon as you register with your local authority for anything you're automatically added to the electoral roll, in the US it's a separate procedure which allows states to come up with new rules for voter registration/suppression that are not required for other government business. One of my favourite wheezes is the way some states take people off the roll for no particular reason.

      1. Hollerithevo

        Re: Britain solved this 'tech problem'

        We have to register to vote, although not in the same way, and we are regularly asked if our details are still current. And we can opt out of our names being sold on to marketers. A UK person can't just waltz in and vote; they have to show their bit of card.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Britain solved this 'tech problem'

          Where do you live, that you have to show your "bit of card"? I always get a polling card before elections, but there is no legal requirement where I live (South Cambs) to show it in order to vote. I go in, and tell the people running the station my name and address. They look it up on their paper list, cross my name out and give me a voting slip. No "have to show their bit of card" necessary.

          (And I certainly didn't give my details out to the party reps who used to hang around outside the polling station trying to find out who had voted. But they stopped turning up years ago.)

          What happens if someone else goes in and tries to use the same set of personal details? I don't know - it's never happened to me.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Britain solved this 'tech problem'

            You sign a bit of paper to say it's really you and the other one wasn't and you get a provisional ballot. If the vote came down to you deciding then it probably gets a bit more complicated

        2. mark4155

          Re: Britain solved this 'tech problem'

          I'm afraid you may not realise that in fact you can vote in a UK election in person without flashing your polling card at the teller. Nice cushy job, I know from experience, but at £210 per day to sit and give out ballots its a piece of piss.

          There is no requirement to show a polling card or any other form of ID to the teller.

          Simply state your name and address at the polling station at which you have been allocated. The teller flicks through the register for that polling station, if there is not a line drawn through your name (a line indicates you have already voted that day and you will be refused a ballot paper) no line = ballot paper.

          A person who attends a polling station and provides false details can be charged under electoral law for "Pesonation" - not impersonation as you would think is more apt.

          The electoral commission, a paper tiger, presumably carefully crafted out of spoilt ballot papers with no teeth says the following

          "In 2018, there was no evidence of large-scale electoral fraud.

          Of the 266 cases that were investigated by the police, one led to a conviction, and two suspects accepted police cautions.

          In 2017, there was one conviction and eight suspects accepted police cautions."

          So there...... what could go wrong.... fill in the dots.

          Toodle Pip!

          PS We has an elderly guy who came to the polling station three times to vote, we never reported him as a colleague also saw him visiting the a newspaper shop for the same newspaper multiple times a day. Bless him.

          PPS Not that I would ever condone this, but if you really dislike the other candidate(s) on the ballot why not send them a message where you would normally place a cross?

          Make sure you put a cross on the one you want (a tick is also acceptable). In the wee small hours your ballot paper will be put with other "questionable" papers and presented to the candidate and agents to agree on the voting intention, always great to see the faces of candidates who have been left a "message". By the way your vote is not secret. On receiving your ballot paper, the friendly teller will write the ballot paper number (on the reverse) against your name. Giving a clear indication of your voting intention.

          The ballots after counting including the polling registers are sealed in their ballot box and popped under the town hall for a period of time to enable any subsequent legal challenge ( normally up to 21 days after an election result is declared) as to the validity of the election to take place.

          To my knowledge a challenge on the grounds of validity is a rare occurrence

          1. Danny 2 Silver badge

            Re: Britain solved this 'tech problem'

            I was homeless for a long, long time. My passport had expired. My driving licence was invalid for driving because it had my previous address on it (apparently you can't put 'homeless' on it, even if you can afford the £10 upgrade. Homeless people can't legally drive. It's not enforced as far as I know, but it's one of those cracks you fall down).

            To the great credit of the British state I had no problem voting or registering to vote. I was constantly explaining this to other homeless people. I dunno if voting changes anything, but it makes you feel part of wider society.

    3. Spacedinvader

      Re: Britain solved this 'tech problem'

      "I bought kevlar gloves. They are supposedly 'slash proof'. I have no way of safely testing that claim."

      Can you not just try and slash them whilst not on your hands? Fill with water? Carrots down the fingers?

      1. David Roberts

        Re: Britain solved this 'tech problem'

        Or just slash on them?

  8. Jason Bloomberg
    Big Brother

    Meanwhile, on the other side of the pond

    In the UK it is continually proposed that we should allow voting by SMS, email, TV Red Button services, via ATMs, in supermarkets, anywhere and anyhow.

    That's because those who control us aren't so much concerned about voter fraud than ensuring voter numbers makes it look like our alleged system of democracy is still legitimate. They don't care about who wins so much as ensuring the system persists.

    As long as we can pretend we have democracy; all will be fine.

  9. RobThBay

    So no one thought to do a site inspection and call in a buried utility locator crew before digging?

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