What’s in a name? If you are running for office, it should be consistency.
For example, if you are appearing on the ballot as “John Quincy Smith”, don’t promote yourself as “John Smith” or “John Q. Smith”. Your political campaign website, signage and all your promotional materials should match. A consistent ballot name helps build name brand identification and reduces voter confusion.
In the case of write-in ballots, voters must use the correct version of your name. Write-in elections are tough to win, even in the best of circumstances. Proper spelling is important to withstand legal ballot challenges. To make things simple for write-ins, you might want to avoid using your middle name or initials in the campaign. Not every municipality allows for a “sticker campaign”, where a candidate provides voters with stickers with the candidate’s name as registered to attach on ballots as a write-in.
A few years back in local race, a candidate first announced that she was running in a press release using her first and last name. But when the first mailing went out, a middle name was added. By the end of the campaign, the name had morphed to first, middle and a hyphenated last name. Most voters probably didn’t notice, but for those following the election, the constant name changes may have seemed odd.
Avoid nicknames and middle initials unless they are important to your branding. If the name or nickname is not often used consistently, it can be confusing to both voters and search engines, potentially causing your website to rank lower than it should for candidate name searches. On the other hand, sometimes a nickname can help boost voter recognition.
Some candidates have gone the route of completely changing their names to improve their chances of winning. One congressional candidate went so far as to change his ballot name to his website address. Another thought his name sounded too feminine, so he had it changed in time for the primary. And then there was the candidate who legally changed his name to ‘Pro-Life’. (The change apparently did not help as he ran and lost in several elections.)
Finally, make sure that your ballot name is properly spelled out on all election materials, including on absentee ballots. Whatever you do, don’t be that candidate who misspells their own name in their advertising!
Checklist Download: Campaign Branding and Marketing Checklist [PDF]
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