An attempt to amend the Virginia constitution to require secret ballots in union elections died Tuesday in the state Senate.

The amendment needed 21 votes to pass, but only received 20, all from Republicans. All 20 Democrats voted against the measure.

The legislation would have blocked so-called "card check" legislation that unions have unsuccessfully pushed at the federal level. Those efforts centered on allowing union workers to get their coworkers to sign cards in support of the union, instead of participating in a secret vote, which would make it easier to organize.

"We have a body of men and women, every one of whom is elected by secret ballot," said Sen. Tom Garrett, R-Lynchburg. He added this was an opportunity to show workers "we will afford them the same secret ballot rights that put us in this chamber."

But Democrats said it was unnecessary and repeated efforts to change the state constitution over the years had already muddled the document.

"Since 1972 we've amended the Virginia constitution 38 times. During that entire period the U.S. Constitution has been amended once," said Senate Minority Dick Saslaw, D-Springfield. "Pretty soon our constitution is going to look like the code of Virginia."

Constitutional amendments in Virginia must pass both chambers of the General Assembly in concurrent years and get approval from the governor before going to voters in a ballot referendum.