The Justice Department has signed off on Virginia’s new voter ID law, Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) said Monday night, in a decision that clears the way for the bitterly contested measure to take effect in time for Election Day. “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,” McDonnell said. “It is welcome news that DOJ has recognized the compliance of this legislation with the Voting Rights Act.” The Justice Department review was needed because Virginia has a history of voter discrimination. It is is one of 16 states that must receive federal approval before changing voting laws. The states must prove to the federal government that any new statutes would not discriminate against minorities.
Republicans have pushed voter ID legislation across the country in recent years, arguing that it is needed to ensure the integrity of elections. Democrats say the effort was meant to disenfranchise minorities, the elderly, students and other groups that lean Democratic.
Virginia’s law is more moderate than many of those pushed elsewhere. It does not require that voters present a government-issued photo ID. But it does close a provision that had allowed voters to cast ballots without showing identification of any sort. For years, Virginia had a law requiring that voters provide identification at the polls. But the law also allowed people who arrived without ID to vote as long as they signed a sworn statement that they were who they claimed to be.