North Texas legislator during House testimony on voter identification legislation said Asian-descent voters should adopt names that are “easier for Americans to deal with.”
The comments caused the Texas Democratic Party on Wednesday to demand an apology from state Rep. Betty Brown, R-Terrell. But a spokesman for Brown said her comments were only an attempt to overcome problems with identifying Asian names for voting purposes.
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. . . .
Brown suggested that Asian-Americans should find a way to make their names more accessible.
“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?”
My name, while it sounds Irish, has a Korean component and a hyphen. My children have Korean components to their names.
My Republican father-in-law and mother-in-law both fit in the category of people described by Ramey Ko in the testimony quoted above. Presumably, as a precaution against the kind of problems being discussed in the Texas testimony, my inlaws keep voter registration cards pinned to a billboard in the hallway leading out of the house so that they can prove without a doubt their right to vote when the time comes once or twice a year. I have people in my precinct in Denver who rarely go by their legal names in public, because nicknames has stuck.
The state doesn't have many obligations, but one is to take people's names as we find them. The convenience of election officials is irrelevant. Eligible voters need to be allowed to vote. The notion that adult citizens should be allowed to vote is not exactly radical.
Representative Betty Brown's comments are yet another example of why her political party is withering. This is the party of free trade and global corporate power? Wake up! Ellis Island is out of business. Nobody is more American than anybody else in this country founded upon the principle that all men are created equal. But, some places in the United States are backward. We have some of those places in Colorado, but apparently a whole lot more places like that in Texas. Just as George W. Bush stood up to represent the mediocre Texans of this country, Betty Brown is apparently there to represented backward Texans. Let us hope that some of her colleagues are even dimly more enlightened.