U.S. appeals court to hear arguments on Virginia's voter ID law

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[September 22, 2016]  (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Thursday will hear Virginia Democrats' challenge to a 2013 Republican-backed state law requiring prospective voters to show approved photo identification before casting their ballots.

The Virginia Democratic Party is asking the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, to overturn the law. A federal judge in May upheld the measure passed by the Republican-led legislature and signed by then-Governor Robert McDonnell, also a Republican.

The appeal ahead of the Nov. 8 elections is among legal challenges around the United States to voter identification laws that were driven by Republicans who argue they prevent election fraud.

The Virginia Democratic Party contends that the law was intended to deter young and minority voters from turning out on Election Day and to counter Democrats' growing political clout in the state.

In upholding the law, U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson said that the measure created an "inconvenience" for potential voters who did not have drivers' licenses or other government-issued ID. But that was not enough to merit striking it down, he wrote.

The state has argued that photo ID is needed to ensure that only registered voters cast ballots and to prevent voter fraud.

In 2008, President Barack Obama became the first Democrat to carry Virginia since 1964, boosted by turnout among black, Latino and young voters. He carried the state again in 2012.

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Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton leads her Republican opponent Donald Trump in Virginia opinion polls.

In the most recent statewide elections, Democrats swept the top offices of governor, lieutenant governor and attorney general. The state's two U.S. senators also are Democrats.

The Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down in July a North Carolina law that required voters to show photo ID, ruling that it intentionally discriminated against minority voters.

The U.S. Supreme Court last month rejected a North Carolina request that the restrictions be reinstated for November's elections.

(Editing by Alan Crosby)

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