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ACLU to keep close watch on new Va. voter ID law

Wednesday - 8/22/2012, 7:03am  ET

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - Voters going to the polls in Virginia will need to show identification or they will be turned away in November.

Virginia's voter identification law passed muster with the Voting Rights Act even as some others failed.

A voter identification law in Pennsylvania failed a review by the U.S. Justice Department because it required a photo identification. But in Virginia, a voter can produce other forms of identification that have his name and address, such as a utility bill, bank statement, government check or paycheck.

In the past, voters without identification would be allowed to cast a ballot once they swore under threat of perjury they were who they claimed.

The American Civil Liberties Union says while the new law closes some loopholes, it could still intimidate some voters.

"We'll be monitoring the implementation of the law to ascertain whether the law has an adverse impact on the working poor, minorities, among the elderly, on the disabled," says Virginia ACLU Director Claire Guthrie Gastaņaga.

She says a decision by Gov. Bob McDonnell to spend $1 million to send out new voter identification cards to those legally registered will make things a little better.

Virginia's law is subject to review under the Voting Rights Act because of a past history of discrimination.

"Laws that contract the right-to-vote ought to be based on some evidence or some common sense that suggests there's a wrong that needs to be fixed. And, in this case, we have absolutely no evidence of that," says Guthrie Gastanaga.

McDonnell issued a statement saying he was pleased with the Justice Department's decision to sign off on the new law which he calls "common sense legislation."

More information on Virginia's voter identification requirements is available from the Virginia Board of Elections.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)