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Justice Department OKs Virginia voter ID law

Posted at 7:47 AM, Aug 21, 2012
and last updated 2012-08-21 07:47:48-04

By: CNN’s Dana Davidsen

(CNN) – In the midst of a heated national debate over voter identification laws nationwide, the Justice Department approved Monday of Virginia’s new voter identification law.

Virginia’s new law requires voters to present a valid form of identification at the polls. Otherwise, voters can cast a provisional ballot and later present an ID within a few days following Election Day for their vote to count.

The law also expands the types of identification acceptable to vote, some of which do not require a photo of the voter.

Under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, Virginia’s law had to be precleared by the Justice Department before taking effect.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell signed the legislation into law in late May.

“Protecting against voter fraud and making sure our elections are secure are critical for confidence in our democracy,” said McDonnell in a statement about the pre-clearance Monday. “The legislation I signed into law is a practical and reasonable step to make our elections more secure while also ensuring access to the ballot box for all qualified voters.”

The law, in part, requires the issuance of a voter card, considered a valid state ID, to registered voters in the state prior to Election Day.

Pending voter ID laws in several states have ignited a heated debate over potential impact on voter turnout.

The Virginia law’s pre-clearance comes after a Pennsylvania judge upheld a much stricter and more controversial voter law in the state last week.

Pennsylvania’s new law requires voters to present a government issued photo ID in order to cast a ballot. A coalition of Pennsylvania civil rights groups has filed an appeal.

Critics of voter ID laws say they discriminate against minorities who may not have proper identification.

Virginia is considered a battleground state in November’s presidential election and voter turnout is thought to be key in President Barack Obama’s re-election effort in the state. In 2008, then-senator Obama took Virginia by six points over rival Sen. John McCain. The state is thought to be an even closer battle in 2012.