Bilingual ballots, And You Never Really Know What That Chinese Character Really Means

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I was reading this article down at The Boston Globe and the ongoing fight about having candidate names in Chinese and I couldn't help but pause at a few pieces:

Last year Boston started printing the names in Chinese characters on the ballots for the first time, drawing opposition from Galvin, the state's top elections official, because of the potential that the names could mean something else entirely. But Chinese-American voters say the translations are rarely misunderstood and help elderly voters who struggle with English [...]

He said the translations do not always reflect the person's name and at worse could have a negative connotation. As examples, Galvin said, Mitt Romney's name could have been confused in Chinese characters with "sticky rice" on the ballot; Mayor Thomas M. Menino could be "imbecile." [...]

Jian Hua Tang, a 59-year-old Chinese schoolteacher, said she never would have confused Romney's name with "sticky rice," like Galvin suggested last year. "That's like saying if your last name is Green, I should confuse you as a green person," she said.

I wonder if maybe Galvin, in addition to thinking that people would confuse Romney with sticky rice was afraid that maybe somehow people would be communicating government secrets through the use of ballots, because you never really know what's going on with those strange and quirky characters and you can't really ever trust those Chinese people anyway because they just might be spies - or at least calling you an idiot.

But in this case that might not be such a bad idea.