Let's say I change my name to Donald Trump and declare my intent to run for President. If Trump is re-elected, why do I not have just as much as a claim to the presidency as him? The ballot doesn't put his SSN and it doesn't put his picture. Why can't anyone with his name declare it was actually them who was elected?

  • 4
    I'm pretty sure if there were ever two presidential candidates with the exact same name, they'd figure out a way to differentiate them on the ballot. And that is whats relevant, because without being a candidate and being on the ballot, you have no claim to victory.
    – Polygnome
    Mar 3, 2020 at 19:25
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    Because you have no proof whatsoever. You don't have any of the paperwork associated with the process. And presumably, somewhere in the whole process your identity is checked. A name is just that, a name. its not an identity.
    – Polygnome
    Mar 3, 2020 at 19:31
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    But on the ballot is simply a name, not an identity
    – Alec
    Mar 3, 2020 at 19:35
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    Why don't you try it and let us know the results?
    – Lag
    Mar 3, 2020 at 19:55
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    For starters, at least in Maryland you would need to change your name to Donald J. Trump and be a resident of New York as all of that is on the ballot. Next, if you attempted to change your name to that it might not be accepted if it appeared you were changing your name for the intent to deceive, interfere, or create confusion.
    – Damila
    Mar 3, 2020 at 21:16

3 Answers 3


Because you have no proof whatsoever to being the elected person.

There is a lot of paperwork associated with becoming a candidate and appearing on the ballot. Paperwork only the actual person who was elected would have access to.

An individual running for a seat in the House or Senate or for the office of U.S. President becomes a candidate when he or she raises or spends more than $5,000 in contributions or expenditures. [...] All such candidates must register with a Statement of Candidacy (Form 2) and designate a principal campaign committee within 15 days of becoming a candidate as described. Candidates (including incumbents) must file a Statement of Candidacy for each election cycle in which they are candidates.

All candidates file with the FEC, electronically or by paper.

Candidates who file electronically are required to use Form 2. Candidates who file by paper can use either Form 2 or a letter with the same information that’s captured on Form 2.

The Statement of Candidacy requires a candidate’s signature. It collects some basic information, including the candidate's name and address. It’s also where candidates authorize any campaign committees working for them.


The actual candidate would have access to all this paperwork and could easily prove that it was them, not you, who filed these papers and was the candidate/on the ballot.

I am pretty sure that if the situation ever arises that two presidential candidates have the same name, the FEC would find a way to make in unambiguously clear on the ballot who is who. A name is just one of the many ways to represent a person (and a a bad one at that).

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    I was reading the state level requirements on ballotpedia, and a lot of them are just that the party writes to the Secretary of State and says Donald Trump's their candidate (plus a list of electors). If the party decided they'd picked the wrong Donald Trump, it seems possible they could replace him with another. Mar 3, 2020 at 20:18
  • The FEC isn't responsible for the ballots; each state is.
    – phoog
    Mar 3, 2020 at 23:49
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    A duplicate name situation almost happened in CA-36's House election, until one of the Raul Ruizes withdrew from the primary.
    – dan04
    Mar 4, 2020 at 2:15

But on the ballot is simply a name, not an identity.

The ballot typically has the candidate's name and party. So if “Donald J. Trump (Republican Party)” wins the election, any confusion could be cleared up by contacting the Republican National Committee and asking which Donald J. Trump that is. And they will have a paper trail backing up the claim of a particular man born on June 14, 1946 in New York City.

(Incidentally, I happen to have a name very similar to a Congressman. I've joked to my family and co-workers about winning “my” election, but left it at that.)

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    Also, for presidential elections, the Electoral Collage does the actual electing. They are pretty unlikely to assume those votes are for the less famous person with that name.
    – bobsburner
    Mar 6, 2020 at 17:12

In a comment, you wrote

But on the ballot is simply a name, not an identity.

A name is an identity. The name is on the ballot for the sole purpose of identifying an individual.

If two people with the same name claim to have been elected to the same office, there is a mechanism for identifying the correct individual. In the case of the US presidency, the body responsible for such questions is the United States Congress. In the case of the current crop of candidates, there is no ambiguity: each name on every ballot identifies a single individual.

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