Choosing a Chinese name?

In California there is no regulation of how names are translated into Chinese characters on election ballots — which allows candidates to sometimes be inventive in creating names for themselves. The Los Angeles Times reports that State Senator Leland Yee, a Democrat from San Francisco, is trying to get a bill passed that would systemize how candidates identify themselves in character-based scripts such as Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.

"This is an issue that affects the integrity of the ballot," Yee told the Times. "There are no rules on the books to deal with it."

At issue is the difference of transliteration of an English word to Chinese or using a different, sometimes invented, name which could have a different significance. As an example, the story points to the experience of Assemblyman Mike Eng, a Democrat from Monterey Park whose district includes Alhambra:

Eng is well-known in the Chinese American community as Wu Guo Qing, a name given to him by his late grandfather, who worked as a houseboy for the president of Levi Strauss & Co. Wu is his Mandarin family name. "Guo Qing" means "National Day."

But Eng, who does not speak or read Chinese, said he was not aware at the time that he could use his Chinese name when registering his candidacy. The Chinese-language voters guide gave him a new name meant to sound like his English one: Mai Ke En. Rough translation: "Wheat Can Kindness."

"I was horrified," he said.

Other examples are non-Asian candidates who have chose Chinese names that would make them seem like a better candidate. Mike Nava, in the example used in the story, chose a name with the meaning "Correct and Fair." Apparently the effort was not enough. He lost to the incumbent, Richard Ulmer who was on the ballot with the transliteration to Ao Ma, which means "Australia Horse."

The bill would require candidates use "phonetic transliterations of their names in election materials printed in character-based scripts such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean — unless they could prove they already had established character-based names, either given to them at birth or in regular use for at least two years," the Times reports.

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