In the election for county clerk last year, some voters might have been confused by the similarity of the surnames of the two major candidates: David Swarts and Shelly Schratz.
Hamburg School District voters wish they had it so easy.
When they head to the polls to elect School Board members next month, they will consider whether to elect Diane Reynolds. If they don't like her, they might choose Diane Reynolds.
The two women, who are not related by blood or marriage, are vying for one of the three seats on the ballot next month against two incumbents who, fortunately, are not named Diane Reynolds: Edwin J. Osborne and William Sipprell Jr.
The only way voters will be able to distinguish between the challengers is by their middle initials, R or M.
"M, as in Mom," Diane Reynolds said, signaling that she is already very much on the campaign trail.
Neither woman knows the other one or what she stands for, although both knew that the other existed. Both had daughters in school at the same time and, as all parents can understand, came to be known by their daughter's name: Diane M. is Catherine's mother; Diane R. is Sarah's mother.
And both are somewhat known in Hamburg: Diane M. has been president of the high school PTA for four years and is the wife of Erie County Legislator and outgoing School Board member Robert Reynolds. Diane R. is the mother of the late Matthew Reynolds, who was active in volunteer organizations and village government.
There are differences between them, besides the middle initial: Both live in Hamburg, but Diane M. lives outside the village and Diane R. lives in the village. Diane R. is a bank officer in the small-business department at HSBC, while Diane M. is a stay-at-home mom.
They found out about each other's campaign at about the same time last week, and both were surprised to hear the news. And both figured they had better get used to using their middle initials when they meet the voters.
"I only use my middle initial for legal purposes," Diane M. said. "I never used it all the time. Whenever I sign something for school, I might use M. Sometimes I don't. But I guess I'm going to start using it all the time now."
School Superintendent Peter G. Roswell said that this is a first for him in his more than 20 years as a superintendent and that all the district can do is make sure the election follows the law. He hopes the different middle initials will be enough to differentiate the Dianes.
"I hope you don't ask me what we would have done if they had the same middle initials because I honestly don't know," he said.
Of course, none of that will matter a whit to people who never met either of them, can't remember middle initials and go into the voting booth May 15 and see four names, two of them virtually identical. In Florida seven years ago, ballot confusion made some voters leave the booth thinking they voted for Al Gore only to later learn they might have voted for Pat Buchanan. In Hamburg, it's more than likely that some voters will leave the booth thinking they voted for Diane Reynolds when, in fact, they might have voted for Diane Reynolds.
The obvious problem that could arise from this is that one gets votes intended for the other. But Diane R. said that something else is possible: "People might go into the booth and say, 'I forgot which one she is,' pick out both Dianes and kick out one of the incumbents."
In that case, the headline almost writes itself. "Diane Reynolds wins in Hamburg; so does Diane Reynolds."