July 2, 2019
The California State Legislature passed a bill on July 1, 2019, that requires phonetic transliterations of candidates’ alphabet-based names to appear on ballots and ballot materials in jurisdiction required to translate ballot materials into character-based languages. The only exceptions are for candidates who can prove they have a character-based name by birth or for candidates who can demonstrate they have been known and identified within the public sphere by a character-based name for the past two years.
The next step is for the Governor to either sign the bill into law or veto it.
Counties currently providing translations of voting materials into character-based languages pursuant to the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 are Alameda, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Orange, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara.
Imagine you are a candidate in a jurisdiction that needs Chinese ballot materials and you don’t have a character-based name by birth. What are the implications of this legislation for you?
It means the only way you can place your own official Chinese name on the ballot is to demonstrate you have been known and identified within the public sphere by that name over the past two years. Otherwise, the Secretary of State will use a standardized formula to phonetically transliterate your name into characters. The transliteration may be adequate, but you might be surprised and disappointed by it.
In Chinese, the same name can be phonetically translated in multiple ways. The language has many homophones—different characters with different meanings that are pronounced the same. A transliteration may sound like your name, but it may have meanings you do not want to be associated with you!
If you want to stand out in a positive way, you should have an individualized Chinese name that is optimized for you as a unique candidate, not a standard, plain vanilla, government generated, phonetic transliteration. You need to get your own official Chinese name and release it publicly as soon as possible.
Crafting your own official Chinese name demonstrates respect for your voters. And your respect for your voters can translate into their respect for you . . . and their votes.
It is too late to establish your name identification for the 2020 election; if this bill becomes law it will become effective in January 2020. But if you start now, you can reach the two years needed by the next election and have your own name from then on.
Every vote counts. Invest in your name and you’ll reap the benefits forever. Get ready now and take control of your own Chinese name.
For detailed information about the bill, please visit:
AB 57: Elections: Names of Candidates
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