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Virginia governor approves photo ID requirement for voters

Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) during their annual meeting in Washington, Feb
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) during their annual meeting in Washington, Feb

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Virginia voters must have photo identification starting next year under a measure Republican Governor Bob McDonnell signed into law on Tuesday.

Virginia Republicans have said the law will prevent voter fraud, while Democrats have called it a maneuver to suppress the votes of older people, minorities and the poor.

McDonnell signed the measure "with the recognition that almost all citizens already have acceptable forms of photo ID that would allow them to vote and a majority of voters support this policy," he said in a statement.

The legislation provides for free identification with the bearer's photo to any registered voter who does not have one.

McDonnell also ordered the State Board of Elections to start a public information program to tell voters about the new requirement before the 2014 elections.

A similar bill in Arkansas was vetoed on Monday by Democratic Governor Mike Beebe, who said it might disenfranchise voters.

Nearly three dozen states that have similar voter ID measures, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Legal challenges to voter ID laws are pending in several states.

(Reporting by Ian Simpson; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Lisa Von Ahn)

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