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Yes, two 'Joseph Deters' will be on the ballot

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Posted at 6:14 PM, Dec 30, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-30 20:09:32-05

CINCINNATI -- Hamilton County commission candidate Dennis Deters can run with his prominent middle name, the state ruled Wednesday. 

Deters -- a Republican and the younger brother of Joseph Deters, the county's longest serving prosecutor -- will list his name as Dennis Joseph Deters on the ballot in November 2016. 

Deters is running for the seat that Republican Greg Hartmann vacated Monday, at the same time Deters' brother will seek his fifth consecutive term. Voters will see the name "Joseph Deters" twice on a single ballot when they head to the polls. 

County Democrats who sit on the Hamilton County Board of Elections voted against allowing Deters to use the name.  They said he's used Dennis P. Deters on everything from property listings to documents he’s filed in court as an attorney. Deters has two middle names, Patrick and Joseph.

"He’s just playing games," Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke said in an interview last week. "They’re looking for every advantage they can get."

The state weighed in on the issue Wednesday afternoon to break the Board of Elections' 2-2 tie. Secretary of State Jon Husted, a Republican, said state election law allows people to use their legal names on ballots. 

"In a community where a world-class professional athlete can legally change his name to his jersey number, surely the community's candidates for public office can appear on the ballot under their given name," Husted said, appearing to reference former Cincinnati Bengals player Chad Johnson, who at one point changed his name to Chad Ochocinco. 

Name recognition is something worth fighting over in this Hamilton County commission race: Democratic challenger Denise Driehaus comes from a family of Cincinnati politicians and has won her statehouse representative seat since 2009. Meanwhile, voters have elected Joseph Deters to the role of prosecutor for a more than a decade.

Some voters might decide who to pick for the seat if a name sounds familiar, Ohio University communications professor Benjamin Bates said in an interview last week. Bates studies political campaign rhetoric and communication tactics.

The tactic has helped create political dynasties out of family trees such as the Kennedys – think John, Bobby, Patrick and Ted, to name a few – and the Bushes.

“A low-information voter is someone who doesn’t pay much attention to politics and relies on contextual clues,” Bates said. “They might look for just party affiliation or just be looking for a name. Dennis Joseph is trying to appeal to those low-information voters.”