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Doug Priesse: Ohio Early Voting Process Should Not Accommodate Black Voters

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A woman casts her absentee ballot while holding her baby during early voting October 1, 2008 in Toledo, Ohio. (Photo by J.D. Pooley/Getty Images)
A woman casts her absentee ballot while holding her baby during early voting October 1, 2008 in Toledo, Ohio. (Photo by J.D. Pooley/Getty Images)

An Ohio GOP election official who voted against the weekend voting rules that enabled thousands to cast ballots in the 2008 election said Sunday that he did not think that the state's early voting procedures should accommodate African-Americans.

"I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban -- read African-American -- voter-turnout machine," Doug Priesse said in an email to the Columbus Dispatch Sunday. "Let's be fair and reasonable."

Priesse is a member of the board of elections for Franklin County, which includes Columbus, and chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, on Wednesday ordered all 88 counties in Ohio to allow early voting Monday through Friday, until 7 p.m., during the final two weeks before the election. Weekend voting, however, will not be allowed.

Weekend voting helped 93,000 Ohioans cast ballots in the final three days before the 2008 election. Black churches promoted taking "your souls to the polls" events on the Sunday preceding the election, an option that will be unavailable if Husted's ruling stands. (The Obama administration has sued Husted to restore the final three days of early voting.)

Early voters in 2008 in Cuyahoga and Franklin counties were disproportionately African-American. A study by Northeast Ohio Voter Advocates found blacks accounted for 56 percent of all in-person early votes in Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, while they accounted for 26 percent of votes overall. In Franklin County, African-Americans cast 31 percent of early votes and 21 percent of votes overall.

UPDATE: Priesse expressed regret for his comments Monday. "My comments in the Sunday, August 19th Columbus Dispatch have been misconstrued, and in some cases misquoted entirely," Priesse told HuffPost in a statement. "However, if my comments, either in their original form, or as repeated in other ways, have caused anyone discomfort, I regret that."

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