LONDON (AA) – Britain has passed an emergency law extending the deadline to register to vote in the EU referendum by 48 hours following a systems failure.
The main government website used to sign up new voters crashed hours before the original Tuesday midnight deadline.
Government minister Matt Hancock said the downtime had been caused by a record 214,000 registrations in a single hour on the final day – and that more than half a million people had signed up on the whole of Tuesday.
A special law extending the deadline to midnight on Thursday was approved by lawmakers in the House of Commons on Thursday afternoon.
But anti-EU campaigners criticized the extension, arguing most of the new registrants were young people likely to support Britain’s continued membership of the European Union.
Arron Banks, leader of the Leave.EU campaign, told The Guardian: “We believe it is unconstitutional at best and have been advised that with legitimate cause we could challenge this extension.
“We are therefore considering all available legal options with our legal team, with a view to potentially launching a judicial review now and after the outcome of the referendum on 23 June.”
The surge that crashed the website on Tuesday occurred at 10.15 p.m. local time (2115 GMT), shortly after the end of a television debate on the EU featuring U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and Nigel Farage, leader of the anti-Europe UK Independence Party.
Ratings figures showed an average of 4 million viewers watched the ITV debate, during which the voter registration website was advertised
The U.K.’s referendum on its EU membership will be held on June 23.