San Francisco Singles out Non-Chinese Candidate

San Francisco will start to crack down on candidates who use Chinese names they chose for themselves unless they can show proof of being born with the name written or if the name is popular and used by many. With a total Chinese population of around 21.4%, San Francisco has mandated that all ballots contain both the English names of candidates and their translated or transliterated names in Chinese characters since 1999.

So, instead of just choosing Chinese characters that sound phonetically close to their English names, people follow what the San Francisco Standard called a “tradition of finding an ‘authentic’ Chinese name”—all because of this regulation. However, effective in 2019, candidates who self-submit Chinese names will be required to show that they have had the names from birth or have been publicly known by the name for at least two years. This is according to San Francisco’s 2019 state law.

Those who do not have their names transliterated will have them shown on the ballot. Daniel Lurie, a mayoral candidate, “will likely be assigned a name,” according to the San Francisco Standard, which “doesn’t have any meaning.”. In English, it’s roughly pronounced as “DAN-knee-er LOO-lee.”

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The Standard states that Lurie had previously given himself the name, which translates to “auspicious” (瑞) and “virtue” (德). Since this is his first campaign, voters in 2024 will not see this name—despite its being “widely publicised in the Chinese-speaking world”—unless he can provide evidence that he has used it for at least two years.

Many well-known locals will be eligible for grandfathering since they have already served for at least two years. A letter from San Francisco Supervisor Connie Chan urging the office to execute the 2019 bill was sent to the San Francisco Department of Elections, prompting the adjustment.

Just last week, John Arntz, the head of the department, responded in writing, stating that they “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.”

During an interview with the Standard, Chan voiced her reservations about the possibility of candidates using Chinese names for themselves, citing issues about cultural appropriation.

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It is not cultural appropriation that makes someone Asian, Chan told The Standard. The question of whether a person is Asian has no alternate definition. Only a person’s ancestry and ethnicity should be considered. It is about it that this law is formed.

For her investigation of the state law’s execution, Chan referred to a particular occurrence. Chinese-American Natalie Gee claimed that her opponent, Emma Heiken, used a common name when she claimed that Heiken’s first name was an alias.

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