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Photo ID for voters advances in Virginia Senate

RICHMOND -- Last year, Virginia voters were told they had to start bringing some proof of their identity before they could cast a ballot. Soon, they may have to bring an identification card with their photo on it.

The Senate voted Tuesday along party lines to explicitly require Virginians to bring a photo ID to the polls. The bill was amended so it would not go into affect until 2014, after this year's gubernatorial election, and it also includes a provision that allows any voter to obtain a photo ID card at no cost.

Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling, a Republican, cast the tie-breaking 21st vote in the evenly divided Senate.

In a similar effort, the Republican-controlled House moved Tuesday to amend a list of acceptable forms of identification put in place by Gov. Bob McDonnell last year after a successful GOP effort to require an ID to vote. The House moved Tuesday to eliminate any ID that doesn't include a picture of the voter, excluding voter ID cards and concealed carry permits.

McDonnell said the current list of allowable IDs is sufficient and changes aren't necessary, but he did not rule out allowing them.

Republicans insisted photo identification is necessary to prevent voter fraud.

"There's no excuse for a person not to have a voter ID," said Del. Mark Cole, R-Fredericksburg.

But Democrats said there are many people who do not have a photo ID, and most of them are low-income residents or college students -- groups that traditionally vote Democratic. They also are wary of repeated efforts by Republicans to change voting requirements after a pair of presidential elections in which a Democrat carried the state.

"I find it interesting to note that it's only after the past two presidential elections that my colleagues have had such interest in this legislation," said Sen. Don McEachin, D-Henrico. "Some people just want to confound the electorate and change the rules for voting again. I think it's because they didn't like the last election returns."