SF candidates face stricter regulations when using Chinese names on ballots
By Michelle De Pacina
December 6, 2023
In San Francisco, the tradition of political candidates adopting Chinese names for ballots is facing stricter regulations.
Adhering to state law: Following an inquiry by Supervisor Connie Chan, the Department of Elections will adhere to a 2019 state law, which allows self-submitted Chinese names only if political candidates can prove they were born with them or have been using them for at least two years. Otherwise, candidates will be given transliteration-based names, The San Francisco Standard reported.
How transliteration works: One example cited by The Standard is mayoral candidate Daniel Lurie, who has adopted the Chinese name 羅瑞德, which means “auspicious” and “virtue.” If he cannot prove he was born with the name or has used it for two years, he may be assigned the transliterated name “丹尼爾·露里,” which has no meaning and is only an approximate pronunciation of his English name, “DAN-knee-er LOO-lee.”
Driving the news: The law’s reinforcement is seen as a crackdown on the practice, especially as candidates aim to appeal to the city’s Chinese-speaking population for the election season. There have been concerns about cultural appropriation and the need for authenticity in candidates’ ethnic and heritage representation.
The catalyst was an incident involving a non-Chinese candidate, Emma Heiken, who allegedly used 凱勤 (“Hoi Kan”), the same Chinese given name of a Chinese American candidate, Natalie Gee, according to Mission Local. Supervisor Chan emphasized that ethnicity and heritage should be the basis for determining someone’s identity as Asian.
“Cultural appropriation does not make someone Asian,” Chan told The Standard. “There is no alternative definition to whether someone is Asian or not. It should be based solely on a person’s ethnicity and heritage. That’s what this law is about.”
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