Candidates with similar names both on ballot

Ben Smith, Bennett Smith join Tony Nelson in Ward 2 race

The names of three candidates for the Clear Lake City Council Ward 2 seat will appear on the November ballot, including two similar names.

Candidate Bennett Smith submitted a formal challenge last week to the listing of a challenger’s name, “Ben Smith,” General Election ballot.

As directed by law, the City held a hearing Friday to determine whether the candidacy of Ben Smith could proceed to the general election in November. Mayor Nelson Crabb, City Clerk Jennifer Larsen and Councilman Mark Ebeling listened to both candidates before issuing their decision to allow Ben Smith’s name to remain on the ballot.

Petitioner Bennett Smith told the hearing panel his concern about the confusion such similar names could have on voters.  Smith noted his opponent even mentioned the potential confusion on a Facebook post when he stated he would be entering the race.

Bennett Smith maintained that because he was the first to file papers for the office, Ben Smith should not have been allowed to use his “nickname,” rather than his legal name of Jack Leroy Smith.

Ben Smith said that although his birth certificate states his name is Jack L. Smith, the name on his Social Security card and the name he has used throughout his life is Ben Smith.

“Perhaps this is an issue that needs to be resolved in the Iowa Code,” acknowledged Bennett Smith at the hearing.

Ben Smith said he understood his opponents’ position, but said he has never been called Jack.

“To have to run as Jack would take away my identity and dilute my last 36 years,” he said. “After all of the publicity this has received, there should be zero confusion who is who.”

According to County Auditor and Commissioner of Elections Ken Kline, this is the second time a name issue has arisen in county politics.

In announcing the committee’s decision, Mayor Crabb said they could not find specific direction from the Secretary of State as to how names must appear.  Therefore, they could not substantiate Bennett Smith’s claim that the confusion should disqualify Ben Smith as a candidate.

Bennett Smith said he would abide by the committee’s decision and wished his opponents well in the November election.

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