A three-judge federal panel has denied a move by the Justice Department to require that transliterated candidate names be printed on the ballot in certain Chinese-speaking precincts in Boston. In a decision filed Friday, the judges sided with Secretary of State William F. Galvin that agreements to translate ballots do not require transliteration, rendering non-Chinese names into Chinese characters.
The Globe reported in June that language specialists said that with Chinese characters, Mitt Romney could be read as "Sticky" or "Uncooked Rice," Fred Thompson as "Virtue Soup," and Thomas M. Menino could be "Rainbow Farmer" or "Imbecile."
In a 2005 agreement with the Justice Department's civil rights division, the city agreed to print bilingual ballots. In a suit filed in May, the department said the agreement extended to transliteration. Galvin objected, contending that transliteration would create administrative problems and open the ballot process to challenges.
Advocates said that Chinese-speaking voters have a right to use ballots that have names printed in Chinese characters and that election officials should use characters that Asian-language newspapers use for transliterating the names of political figures. "I will continue to work with voters who have language issues to find ways to make their votes effective," Galvin said this week.