Justice Department Give Go-Ahead To Virginia Voter ID Law

PHILADELPHIA, PA  - APRIL 24:  A voter cast a ballot in a voting booth during the Republican primary election April 24, 2012
PHILADELPHIA, PA - APRIL 24: A voter cast a ballot in a voting booth during the Republican primary election April 24, 2012 at St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Turnout is expected to be low as Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney continues his campaign as the presumptive GOP candidate. (Photo by Jessica Kourkounis/Getty Images)

The federal government gave the go-ahead to Virginia's voter ID law, which provides for a wide range of documentation to prove identity at the polls.

Unlike stricter voter ID laws like those in Pennsylvania, Virginia's voter ID law allows more forms of identification to be used, and doesn't require that citizens show an ID with a photo. Voters in Virginia were previously required to sign a sworn statement confirming their identities.

"Protecting against voter fraud and making sure our elections are secure are critical for confidence in our democracy," Gov. Bob McDonnell of Virginia said in a statement. "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 also ordered the state to send voter ID cards to all registered Virginia voters.

Under a provision of the Voting Rights Act, certain states with histories of disenfranchising voters -- a group that includes Virginia -- must seek approval from the Justice Department before making changes to their election rules. The process, called preclearance, is meant to keep states from adopting new rules that violate the civil rights of groups by effectively barring them from voting.

Voter ID laws have become a major issue during this campaign season because of concerns they could swing the election in key states. The laws have been passed in 11 states since the midterm election in 2010, when Republicans picked up statehouses across the country. Supporters of the laws argue that they prevent voter fraud, even though there is no evidence that voter fraud ever happens.

African Americans, Latinos, college students and the poor are the least likely to have official government identification, and members of those groups are most likely to vote for Democratic candidates.