Governor Signs Bill Establishing Statewide Translation Standards for Ballots

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SACRAMENTO — State Treasurer Fiona Ma on July 16 thanked Gov. Gavin Newsom for signing legislation that will change how a candidate’s name is translated and listed on local ballot.

Assemblymember Evan Low and State Treasurer Fiona Ma

Until now, California law requires the translation of ballots and ballot materials into languages other than English but there have been no statewide translation standards for candidates born with a character-based given birth name.

“Thank you Gov. Gavin Newsom for signing AB 57, authored by Assemblyman Evan Low,” said Ma. “It was frustrating that when I ran for state treasurer, I was not able to use my given birth name, a name that appears on our extensive Ma multi-generational family tree, as well as the name that appeared 14 times on local ballots since my tenure in public service began almost 20 years ago.”

Assembly Bill 57 will now require that if a jurisdiction provides a translation of the candidates’ alphabet-based names into a character-based language, such as Chinese, Japanese, or Korean, phonetic transliterations of the alphabet-based names of candidates be provided, unless a candidate can prove that their birth name is different or that they have been known by a different name in the relevant community for at least two years.

By establishing standards for names translated into character-based languages, AB 57 will ensure that the ballot reflects the true identity of candidates.

The bill will also require that if a candidate’s name is to appear on the ballot in more than one jurisdiction in an election, then all of those jurisdictions must use the same phonetic transliteration or character-based translation of the name.

“In California we are proud to celebrate our diversity, in stark contrast to our national political climate. In doing so, it is important to decrease barriers to the ballot for minority communities,” said Low, a Democrat who represents Silicon Valley. “This legislation will lift up our Asian and Pacific Islander community and increase access to the most fundamental piece of our democracy.”

Currently there are nine counties that are legally required by the Section 203 of the Federal Voting Rights Act to have Chinese-language ballots: Alameda, Contra Costa, Los Angeles, Orange, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, San Mateo, and Santa Clara.

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