Billy Bob Faulkingham is looking, finally, to get his name on the ballot.

The Winter Harbor Republican already holds a seat in the Legislature, but voters have always had to recognize at the polling place that the Billy Bob they know is the same guy as the William Robert who appears on the ballot.

Billy Bob Faulkingham Maine Legislature

Faulkingham said Tuesday that he’s pushing a bill this year that would allow candidates’ nicknames to appear alongside their legal names, a proposal that sailed through the last legislative session but wound up vetoed by Gov. Janet Mills.

“While I do not want to dissuade candidates from using the name by which they are known in their communities, I am concerned about the potential of turning the ballot into an electioneering instrument,” she said in her veto message.

“It is unclear whether any limitations would be permitted if, for example, a nickname such as ‘The Greatest’ or ‘The People’s Hero’ were requested,” Mills wrote in her veto message a year ago.

Faulkingham said candidates will have to swear the name they want on the ballot is the one they actually use.

If approved, he said, his name would appear as William Robert “Billy Bob” Faulkingham, he said, a name that would lessen confusion and prove more transparent about who he really is.

Faulkingham isn’t the only lawmaker whose legal name doesn’t match the one he uses.

State Sen. Trey Steward, a Presque Isle Republican, is listed on the ballot as Harold Stewart III. Faulkingham said he has always been called Trey, a nod to his three-generation family name, but voters might not know that.

In the past session, both the House and Senate easily passed the bill with little opposition until Mills eyed it.

She said candidates “can always identify themselves with their nicknames in their campaign materials,” helping to avoid confusion, and if they’re determined to have their nickname on the ballot, there is “a simple legal process” to make the name change permanent.

For example, U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Maine Democrat from the 1st Congressional District, went to court to have her legal name changed from Rochelle to Chellie, the name she was known for.

Faulkingham said the name issue is more commonplace than people think.

He cited, for instance, Willard Romney, known as Mitt Romney who is a former Republican presidential candidate and current U.S. senator from Utah who serves with Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz, a Republican senator from Texas.

In 1976, everyone knew James Earl Carter as Jimmy, the name he almost always used as president. William Jefferson Clinton, a generation later, governed as Bill Clinton during his two terms in the White House.

The National Conference of State Legislatures said states are not consistent in how they handle nicknames, with some barring them and others embracing them.

In North Carolina, for instance, candidates can use “legitimate nicknames in ways that do not mislead the voter or unduly advertise the candidacy” while Alaska allows “any nickname or familiar form of a proper name of the candidate” on the ballot.

Allowing candidates the ability to have the name they use day in and day out on the ballot, Faulkingham said, is just common sense.

“It’s a very simple bill,” he said. “There’s nothing nefarious.”

Lewiston City Clerk Kathy Montejo testified two years ago about the measure.

She asked lawmakers to amend it “to prohibit the use of any nicknames that might be deemed as obscene, offensive or vulgar based upon the application of standard societal norms.”

Municipal clerks, Montejo said, “feel the absence of this language from the statutes might open the doorway for residents who wish to take advantage of this omission and have such a name or term printed on official state ballots in order to make a mockery of the election.”

But Faulkingham said they could do that now if they wished by legally changing their name to something problematic.

The secretary of state’s office offered a more prosaic problem that it saw with the bill two years ago.

In its testimony, it worried about the space limitations on paper ballots.

Julie Flynn, who led the elections division, said they try to make ballots uniform to make them easier to read, using at least 10-point type for candidates’ names. As it is, some longer names barely fit on the line.

Flynn worried that if candidates could add their nicknames, the state would wind up needing a longer ballot or a second page in order to accommodate them, adding to the expense involved.

Faulkingham said, though, that the cost of making the change is minimal.

He said that these days even credit card companies advertise that they’ll put the name customers want on their cards, a boost for people who might be switching genders or some other serious issue.

When “credit card companies are more progressive than our election law,” Faulkingham said, it’s time to change the law.

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