After a contentious and controversial election season, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted is standing by the measures his office took to restrict early voting in 2012, as well as the state's voter ID law, even though he now admits that voter fraud is "a very rare occurrence."

In an interview with the Cincinnati Enquirer, Husted said that while county boards of elections across the state are investigating apparent attempts by hundreds of people to vote twice, "the system caught it" and "we shouldn't overreact."

This is something of a departure for Husted, who attempted to purge thousands of voters from Ohio's voter rolls in February of this year, writing on the Secretary of State website, "The longer ineligible voters are permitted to remain on the rolls the greater the chance Ohio has of seeing an increase in voter fraud."

In March, his office issued a press release announcing that it was aggressively prosecuting a voter fraud suit against an unnamed individual who may have voted in both South Carolina and Ohio in multiple elections.

“We take any hint of voter fraud very seriously,” Husted said in the release. “It is critical to the integrity of our voting system that legitimate voters’ ballots are not being diluted by those seeking to game the system.”

On September 16, the Columbus Dispatch published a front-page story about Ohio's "bloated" voter rolls, in which Marvin Randolph, a senior vice president with the NAACP said, "We have found that purges do disproportionally affect African-Americans."

Republicans, he said, have used the specter of voter fraud to mount a "systematic and very well-coordinated attack on voting rights” in 2012, with Husted's office leading the way.

Husted's office was repeatedly admonished by federal courts this year for its attempts to limit early voting.  Husted claimed his aggressive effort to do away with early voting was merely an effort to make voting opportunities "equal" across the state, but Doug Priesse, an advisor to Ohio's Gov. John Kasich (R) told the Columbus Dispatch in August that his party was mainly interested in limiting the black vote.

"I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine," he said.  "Let’s be fair and reasonable.”

[Hat-tip to the Plunderbund blog]

[image via Progress Ohio's Flickr photostream]