Vancouver election chief asks court to ban names in Chinese, other non-Latin characters from ballots

  • Vancouver’s Chief Election Officer Rosemary Hagiwara filed a court application on Tuesday to keep 15 candidates from using names with non-Latin characters on the ballot papers for the municipal election on Oct. 15.
  • Hagiwara’s affidavit named 10 respondents in total from the Non-Partisan Association (NPA), two from Vision Vancouver and one each from Forward Together and COPE who she deemed are not eligible to use Chinese, Persian or other non-Latin characters on the paper ballots.
  • The hearing for the case, initially set by the provincial court in Robson Square on Thursday, has been adjourned to Friday morning.
  • While the city has committed to comply with any court ruling, it noted that regardless of the decision on the non-Latin characters, none of the candidates will be disqualified.
  • Vision Vancouver expressed dismay over the potential removal of the “unique and usual names” printed in non-Latin characters of both school board trustee Allan Wong and council candidate Honieh Barzegari from ballot papers.

A court application filed by Vancouver’s chief election officer is aiming to keep candidates from using names with non-Latin characters on the ballots in the upcoming municipal election. 

On Tuesday, Rosemary Hagiwara named 15 candidates in her application who she deemed ineligible to use Chinese, Persian or other non-Latin characters on the paper ballots.

The respondents include Vision Vancouver school board trustee Allan Wong, Non-Partisan Association (NPA) mayoral candidate Fred Harding and incumbent NPA councilor Melissa De Genova. Hagiwara named 10 in total from the NPA, two from Vision Vancouver and one each from Forward Together and COPE.

The application noted that all the respondents named are using their “usual names” in both Latin characters and either Chinese or Persian on the ballot papers to be used in the election on Oct. 15.

According to Hagiwara, the respondents did not use non-Latin versions of their names when they ran for municipal elections in the past. 

The hearing for the case, initially set by the provincial court in Robson Square on Thursday, has been adjourned to Friday morning.

The city has committed to comply with any court ruling but noted that regardless of the decision on the non-Latin characters, none of the candidates will be disqualified. 

The drawing of names to decide their order on ballots is set to proceed as planned at 5 p.m. on Friday.

Harding, whose wife’s family members are part Chinese, said he has had his Chinese name for many years and that it wasn’t something “plucked out of a hat.”

“So telling me that this is not my usual name, you can understand this is like, ‘You really don’t know me,’” Harding was quoted as saying.

Based on Hagiwara’s affidavit, Harding initially did not include Chinese characters when he submitted his nomination on Sept. 6, and only revised his nomination three days later to include them.

Harding also did not include Chinese characters in his nomination during his 2018 mayoral run.

In a statement, Vision Vancouver expressed dismay over the potential removal of the “unique and usual names” printed in non-Latin characters of both Wong and council candidate Honieh Barzegari from ballot papers.

However, the party also called out candidates for alleged “cultural appropriation” by adopting Chinese names by which they have not been usually known.

“This action is a sad reminder that the NPA will stop at nothing to try to save its electoral prospects, even at the expense of other candidates,” said Barzegari. “It is deeply shameful, and voters deserve better.”

Meanwhile, COPE school board candidate Suzie Mah said she felt “shock and disbelief” since her Chinese name was given to her by her parents. She added that she did not “make up a Chinese name” just for the election.

“The reason for using my Chinese name as well as my English name on the ballot is important to me,” Mah said in a statement. “This is not about gaining extra votes with the Chinese community.” 

She also pointed out that there is no time to seek legal advice prior to the hearing.

 

Featured Image via CityNews

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