Thursday, April 09, 2009

a voter by any other name

over in texas, they're debating a voter ID law. here in indiana, where we've had voter ID for a few years, we know that such laws are highly problematic. (the #1 problem, naturally, is that they're completely unnecessary, a solution in search of a problem.) yesterday, the texas house heard testimony about one problem that i haven't seen discussed elsewhere: not only do some people have names that may sound "weird" to american ears, but some names can't even be directly translated to the latin alphabet:

The exchange occurred late Tuesday as the House Elections Committee heard testimony from Ramey Ko, a representative of the Organization of Chinese Americans.

Ko told the committee that people of Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent often have problems voting and other forms of identification because they may have a legal transliterated name and then a common English name that is used on their driver's license on school registrations.

so what do you do if you have a difficult-to-spell name? back in the old days, the folks at ellis island would've just changed your name to "joe smith" and that'd be that. apparently, texas rep betty brown would like to go back to those days:

"Rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese — I understand it's a rather difficult language — do you think that it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?" Brown said.

Brown later told Ko: "Can't you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier for you and the people who are poll workers if you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that's easier for Americans to deal with?"

pretty simple, really. if your name is in some crazy moon language and you want to vote here in america, just change your name to something american. steve is a good name. or frank, that's a good one. women can pick names like mary or lisa.

rep brown insists her suggestion wasn't racially motivated. she was only trying to address an identification problem. but let's face it: asians aren't the only people with weird names. so if we're going to make people change their names like we used to, we should do it across the board: eastern europeans, aboriginal descent, even blacks. i mean, what kind of a name is kanye west, for example? or, for that matter, barack obama?

just think of it: president steve obama! now that's a name change you can believe in!


djempirical said...

pssst, i got the Tick reference. ;)

Wilson46201 said...

Foreigners changing names when arriving in America is nothing new. The ancestors of most African-Americans didn't arrive with surnames like Carson or Anderson, did they now?