Republican State Representative Betty Brown continued to come under fire today for remarks she made in a Texas House Elections Committee hearing about voter ID legislation. In response to testimony from Mr. Ramey Ko, Rep. Brown said the following:
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?
New York City Councilman John C. Liu is demanding an apology from Rep. Betty Brown. From the Associated Press story, couresty of the Dallas Morning News, titled, “NYC councilman demands apology from TX lawmaker”:
“It's outrageous and insulting for you to suggest it would 'behoove' us to adopt another name, to give up our birthright and a part of our own identity, in order to exercise our right to vote,” he said.
California State Senator Leland Yee echoed many of the following sentiments in his press release:
“This is one of the most appalling statements I have ever heard an elected official direct at Asian Americans,” said Yee. “Representative Brown fails to realize that voters of Asian decent are also Americans. No one should be thold they need to change their name in order to cater to another ethnicity.”
Senator Yee's press release highlighted legislation the State of California is pursuing that would address the real issue at hand:
SB 288 will specifically address the use of fraudulent non-English names during elections. Senate Bill 288 will create guidelines for the fair use of candidate names on ballots in jurisdictions that provide multiple language translations, such as Chinese, Korean, and Japanese.
It would be great if we had such legislation sitting before the TX House Committee on Elections right now that Republican State Rep. Betty Brown and her colleagues could support. Oh wait — we do! From an e-mail last night that was forwarded by Democrat activist Carl Whitmarsh, we get this statement from the TDP's Anthony Gutierrez:
[Rep. Betty Brown] is clearly not grasping the point here that there's already legislation in her committee that would address most of the existing problems (Hochberg has a bill that would address problems with voter database matching names), but the voter ID legislation she's strongly advocating for is what would create even more problems while at the same time not solving anything at all.
[Update] Charles Kuffner at Off the Kuff has more about Rep. Hochberg's legislation, HB 1457:
There's video at that link as well. One way that Rep. Brown could make good on that promise and show that her apology was sincere would be to get behind HB1457 by Rep. Scott Hochberg, which is currently pending in the Elections Committee on which Rep. Brown sits. The bill states, in part:
SECTION 1. Chapter 11, Election Code is amended by adding Section 11.0005 to read as follows: Sec. 11.0005. GENERAL POLICY REGARDING ELIGIBILITY. It is the policy of this state that no qualified citizen shall be denied the right to vote due to governmental clerical errors or due to technical defects on an applicant's voter registration application as long as the information on the application demonstrates that the citizen is qualified to vote.
Rep. Betty Brown directly reached out to Mr. Ko…but is having former Republican State Representative Martha Wong apologize for her:
As for a public apology, a statement has apparently been prepared by Brown and given to former State Rep. Martha Wong (a Houston-area Republican). Wong is expected to distribute the statement to Asian American organizations.
How considerate of Rep. Brown to have a surrogate talk to Asians for her.
Last September, I posted a video about the Asian Political Leadership Fund. It features Mr. Liu, who was quoted eariler in this post, Texas' own State Representative Hubert Vo, and Boston mayoral candidate Sam Yoon. I wanted to re-post the video again today, to possibly help remind Rep. Betty Brown and her Republican colleagues about the importance role Asian-Americans have had in helping shape this country: