By Matthew A. Ward
PORTSMOUTH, Va (Reuters) - Virginia's Republican-controlled House of Delegates passed a measure on Wednesday that would restrict voters without valid identification to casting only a provisional ballot at the polls.
Under current state law, voters without proper ID may still vote using an official ballot after signing a sworn statement that they are who they claim to be. Giving a false statement is a felony offense.
The measure approved 69-30 by House lawmakers dictates that those votes would be counted only after verification of the voter's identity. The legislation now moves to the state Senate for consideration.
A spokesman for Republican Governor Bob McDonnell did not indicate Wednesday where the governor stands on the voter ID issue.
"He will review those bills if/when they pass the General Assembly and are sent to his desk," spokesman Jeff Caldwell told Reuters in an email.
Voter ID laws in a number of states with Republican governors and legislative majorities have drawn objections from Democrats, who say the measures disproportionately suppress the vote of low-income, minority and elderly voters.
The administration of President Barack Obama in December blocked South Carolina's new law requiring voters to have photo identification, citing concerns it would hurt minorities' ability to cast a ballot.
Proponents of the legislation in Virginia say it targets voter fraud. Republican Delegate Mark L. Cole, a sponsor of the bill, said it treated all voters equally and discriminated against no one.
"I believe it is a reasonable proposal that will improve election integrity without placing undue burdens on voters," he said in a statement.
About 200 people protested the measure in Richmond on Tuesday, likening it to the former poll tax and literacy laws which historically disenfranchised minorities in the South.
Democratic Delegate Jennifer McClellan argued during the House debate on Wednesday that the legislation would cause heartache for many residents.
"You need to understand that for many Virginians, these scars are still festering, and it doesn't take much to open them up and make them bleed," she said.
(Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Greg McCune)