As it turns out, election results are not decided entirely on the merit of candidates. I know, I know, you’re shocked, right? But it’s true.
Elections have been manipulated by everything from voter suppression to hanging chads. The one you may not have heard before is an election result being skewed by what would seem purely an act of nature; candidates with the same name, confusing to voters who don’t know how to distinguish their preferred candidate.
This past weekend in Romania, this tactic was taken to a new level. In the village of Drăguşeni, Mayor Vasile Cepoi was up for reelection and was facing two challengers. Their names? Vasile Cepoi, and Vasile Cepoi.
From the Jurnalul National Daily (translated):
“One, young and appeasement-ITOR, an agronomist by profession, is the National Liberal Party. The other, small in stature and pugnacious, is the one People’s Movement Party. Vasile Cepoi and Vasile Cepoi want both to topple the current mayor, Vasile Cepoi, candidate of the Social Democratic Party.”
Now that the election is over, we can safely report the election results. Vasile Cepoi and Vasille Cepoi came up short to incumbent Vasile Cepoi, who carried 82% of the vote. And you thought elections in the U.S. were messy.
Three identical names in an election seems outlandish, but we’re not free of the tactic here in America. One would hope that it’s just a coincidence, but sometimes it’s not so clear. In a 2012 race for city council in San Clemente, California, incumbent Robert “Bob” Baker figured he would win handily, if opposed at all. What he didn’t expect was to be challenged by none other than Robert “Bob” Baker.
The way they handle this in California is to put a number next to the name. Lowest number goes first on the ballot, and first person to file their papers gets to pick their number. So of course, the incumbent filed quickly and sought the edge, claiming “Bob Baker 1.” The challenger then would likely be stuck with “Bob Baker 2,” right? Oh, if only common sense existed in American politics.
The challenger chose to be “Bob Baker 0,” prompting a hilarious press release from Bob Baker 1:
“But no, instead, the Clerk issued a statement that Robert ‘Bob’ Baker No. 0 will appear immediately before Robert ‘Bob’ Baker No. 1 on the ballot because zero is a lower number than one.”
File that one under “can’t make this stuff up.” Baker 1 continued:
“Someone can be 1st in line, but no one can be 0st in line, can they?…Do winners of races come in 1st place or 0th place?”
After the issue was pushed further by Baker 1, the city decided and the candidates agreed to have a random drawing to see whose name would come first. The end result was the same, but Baker 1 decided to make the most of the opportunity, branding himself as #1 and referring to his opponent as a “zero.”
Baker 1 went on to win the election, and just last year was chosen by the council to serve as mayor. Silver linings and all that.
Names in elections seem to cause all sorts of problems. Sometimes hilarious problems. I mean, what would you do if your name was the same as the most famous chocolate bar in the country? Milk it, right? Here is the campaign sign for now State Senator Stephen Hershey, which earned him a lawsuit from the candy company, but ultimately likely had a positive impact on his election results:
Be careful out there this election season, friends. You never know when the trickster will strike, and your intended vote goes elsewhere because you didn’t pay close enough attention.
And if all else fails, just “vote for Jeff Johnson. Good old Jeff. The name that you can trust. The name that you know. Jeff Johnson.”