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Emanuel Cleaver, Artur Davis Spar Over Voter ID Laws

Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) criticized former Rep. Artur Davis today for his recent support of voter ID laws, saying that his changed stance has led to speculation that the Alabama Democrat is considering becoming a Republican.

“I don’t know why Artur Davis … wrote what he did,” Cleaver said about an opinion column by Davis that appeared last week in the Montgomery Advertiser. Davis wrote in support of voter ID laws like the one in his native Alabama and alleged that voter fraud is widespread in parts of the black community.

“I saw it and was frustrated by it,” Cleaver said. “I don’t know what that’s all about. There are some people [who] believe he’s getting ready to switch parties. I have no idea. Needless to say, he doesn’t confide in the CBC.”

Davis, who is working as a lawyer in Washington after a failed gubernatorial bid last year, responded to Cleaver’s comments in an email.

“I have heard many Democrats criticize Republicans for imposing litmus tests on their membership,” he said. “I certainly hope that Congressman Cleaver and others are not suggesting that if a Democrat does not hold a certain position that he is no longer fit to be a Democrat. Since I am not a candidate for office, I don’t have to grapple with the question of what party label to wear, but I know that the quickest way for an organization to lose a member is to suggest that he is no longer welcome.”

In the column posted Oct. 17, Davis wrote: “When I was a congressman, I took the path of least resistance on this subject for an African American politician. Without any evidence to back it up, I lapsed into the rhetoric of various partisans and activists who contend that requiring photo identification to vote is a suppression tactic aimed at thwarting black voter participation.”

Davis continued, “The truth is that the most aggressive contemporary voter suppression in the African American community, at least in Alabama, is the wholesale manufacture of ballots, at the polls and absentee, in parts of the Black Belt.”

The voter ID issue has become a significant one nationwide, with many states moving to enact identification laws, which Democrats generally oppose as making voting harder for minorities, students and other groups that are more likely to vote for Democrats.

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