For SF candidates, Chinese name can spell edge at polls

Dear Ms. Green,

Your article in the SF Chronicle about Chinese names in San Francisco elections dated August 29th was most interesting to read.

Your readers might enjoy learning the history of Chinese name use in San Francisco politics.

Prior to August 2002, the Department of Elections had a formal policy requiring any non-ethnic Chinese candidate to submit their name to the Department of Elections to be assigned an official "Chinese name". The problem was that the name was a phonetic characterization of the candidates regular name that had no meaning in the Chinese language. Given the language of the rule, it would be easy to interpret that requirement as a way to clearly identify the race of a candidate.<>

However, as an American who had a residence in Taiwan at the time, I had a legal Chinese name given to me years ago that had been used on all my legal Chinese documents for many years. The Department of Elections wouldn't allow me to use that name because of my race. This led me to petition the Department of Elections in a formal hearing that was unproductive.<>

A prominent political attorney was then hired to write a letter to the Dept of Elections, Board of Supervisors, then mayor Willie Brown and others. That letter referred to the United States Supreme Court, where the case of Anderson v. Martin (1964), 375 U.S.399 considered Louisiana elections in 1962. Louisiana law then required the nomination papers and ballots in all elections designate the race of all candidates. The court determined that the vice in this system lies in placing "...the power of the State behind a racial classification that induces racial prejudice at the polls."<>

After short consideration, the SF Department of Elections repealed the Chinese name requirement. The issue was well covered in the Chinese media. I am very pleased to be the person responsible for creating the environment that allows all candidates to enjoy this Chinese name freedom you wrote about so well.<> See attached Chinese Name Article Sing Tao Daily.docx and DOEPRwoCh.doc.

Please know I'm available to discuss with you if interested in hearing more. Please let me know if you don't intend to do anything with this information. I'll submit to the "Letters to the Editor". Please let me know.

Thank you.

Michael Denny
Former Libertarian SF Mayoral and District 12 Assembly Candidate
San Francisco
Campaign Website<>

Relevant pages to this issue found at:

It's 14 years old so not all links work that well. Happy to accommodate any questions.

noon8window.pdf (36 Bytes)

noon8window.pdf (36 Bytes)