Chinese-Americans protest opposition to translations


BOSTON (AP) – Chinese Americans complained Monday that Secretary of State William Galvin’s opposition to using Chinese phonetic translations of candidate names on election ballots ignores precedent elsewhere in the country, as well as similar translations every day in Chinese newspapers.

Galvin, who is the state’s chief election officer, complained last month that such translations are subject to interpretation and could result in “Mitt Romney,” the Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts governor, being read as “Sticky Rice” on the ballot.

The secretary supports translating the bulk of the ballots into Chinese as required by a 2005 voting rights agreement between the U.S. Justice Department and the City of Boston, as long as the candidates’ names remain in Roman letters.

Supporters of a fully translated ballot rallied Monday on the front steps of the Statehouse with signs reading, “Bilingual Ballots Now” and “Voting Rights for All.” Each speech was translated into both English and Chinese.

“We need a bilingual ballot; our voting rights are at stake,”‘ Lydia Lowe, executive director of the Chinese Progressive Association, said. “Transliteration, or phonetizing the names, is not that complicated.”

Lowe said bilingual ballots were necessary because many Chinese-speaking citizens have difficulty reading a ballot, despite being able to speak English.

Galvin said the Justice Department was pressuring Boston election officials to translate names into Chinese characters in precincts with prominent Chinese-speaking populations.

The problem, he said, is that there are many different characters that could be used to match the sound of each syllable, and many different meanings for each character.