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San Francisco targets non-Chinese candidates using Chinese names on ballots



San Francisco will begin making it more difficult for candidates to use self-submitted Chinese names if they can’t prove they were born with the name written, or if the name is widely known and used by the public.

Since 1999, San Francisco — whose Chinese population is about 21.4 percent of its population as a whole – has required ballots to include the candidates’ English names and their translated or transliterated names in Chinese characters.

This law has resulted in what the San Francisco Standard described as a “tradition of finding an ‘authentic’ Chinese name” – rather than simply using Chinese characters that, together, sound phonetically similar to their English names.

Now, however, San Francisco will begin enforcing a 2019 state law, which cracks down on self-submitted Chinese names, requiring candidates to prove they’ve had the names since birth or that the name has been used in public for at least two years.

Everyone else will be given transliterated names that will appear on the ballot.


For example, the San Francisco Standard reported, candidate for mayor Daniel Lurie, “will likely be assigned a name, 丹尼爾·露里,” which “doesn’t have any meaning. It’s just an approximate pronunciation of his name in English: ‘DAN-knee-er LOO-lee.’”

Lurie had already given himself the name 羅瑞德, which means “auspicious” (瑞) and “virtue” (德), according to the Standard. The Standard said this name is “widely publicized in the Chinese-speaking world,” but since he is a first-time candidate, if he can’t prove he has used the name for at least two years, it likely will not appear on the ballot in 2024.

Many established local public figures will be grandfathered in, since many will meet the two-year threshold already.

The change comes after San Francisco Supervisor Connie Chan wrote to the San Francisco Department of Elections and urged the office to implement the 2019 bill.

Last week, the department’s director, John Arntz, wrote back, saying the department “can adopt a policy that sets a reasonable standard requiring candidates to demonstrate their use of a name or transliteration for the preceding two years when filing nomination papers.”

In an interview with the Standard, Chan cited concerns about cultural appropriation in letting candidates assign themselves Chinese names.

“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.”


Chan cited a specific incident that prompted her inquiry into the implementation of the state law. Natalie Gee, who is Chinese American, accused her opponent, Emma Heiken, of using the same first name as her own given name, which Gee said was not a common name.

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Source: The Hill

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