No matter what the office, last-minute attacks are part and parcel of our political campaigns.
Elections almost always get ugly and desperate in their final stages.
Nervous candidates and their frazzled supporters, cracking under the last-minute pressure, grow increasingly cranky as the hours to election day draw short, and they frequently give in to the temptation to make wild charges they hope will pay off at the ballot box.
That's the best explanation for the joint news conference held last week by Charlie Smyth, the Democratic candidate for Champaign County clerk, state Rep. Naomi Jakobsson and state Sen. Mike Frerichs.
Flanked by the two Democratic legislators, Smyth repeated a major theme of his campaign — his Republican opponent Gordy Hulten is improperly trying to "suppress" voter turnout. In other words, he's accusing Hulten, whose job it is to conduct elections, of trying to deny people their lawful right to vote.
Unfortunately for Smyth, Frerichs and Jakobsson actually undermined Smyth's charge by pledging to introduce legislation that will change the rules in future elections.
So if it's necessary to pass a law to require the clerk to do things differently in the future, doesn't that indicate that Hulten's actions are in compliance with state statutes, and, if so, what's the fuss?
The answer is obvious — this is another in a series of political attacks designed to give the impression that Hulten is improperly using his post to discourage those he suspects to be Democrats from casting ballots in Tuesday's election. That's quite a charge to lodge against a clerk who has presided over the registration of the largest number of voters in county history.
The particulars of this dispute involve "grace period" voters, those who blew the state-mandated Oct. 9 registration deadline and waited until the last minute to register. Hulten could allow same-day voting, but prefers to have late-registrants apply for an absentee ballot, wait for the application to come in the mail, return it and then wait for the absentee ballot.
It's certainly more cumbersome than allowing same-day voting, but Hulten said he prefers to treat all voters the same.
In the case of all newly registered voters, it means confirming the registrant's address by sending a piece of mail to the address listed and conducting a duplicate registration check. Is that process the hallmark of "voter suppression"?
The Democrats even trotted out one of those grace-period voters, an Urbana resident who complained not that he's being denied the right to cast his ballot but rather that he's afraid he won't receive his absentee ballot in time.
There will, of course, always be people who wait until the absolute last minute and want what they want when they want it. If there weren't, Smyth, Jakobsson and Frerichs couldn't use them as dubious exhibits at their politically inspired news conferences.
There are few things easier than registering to vote and voting. That Smyth has to go to such lengths to attack his opponent suggests he doesn't have much else to talk about.