4:04 pm Jun. 26, 2012
Rep. Nydia Velazquez didn't mention it to voters at her first stop in Chinatown this morning, but there's a bit of confusion over how her name appears in Mandarin on today's primary ballot.
Velazquez's campaign relied on the Board of Elections to translate the her name into Chinese characters, and then failed to object when the board produced an eight-character version that doesn't come particularly close to capturing the pronunciation.
I sent the name that appears on the ballot to a Mandarin speaker who said the first name was fairly close, but that Velazquez's last name would be pronounced: "Wēi Lái Tzí Kwáy Tzí."
Non-Chinese politicians often choose a set of characters to represent them to Chinese-reading voters, but those characters are often not intended to be a direct translation of their names. In past cycles, Velazquez was represented on the ballot by four Chinese characters that didn't replicate the American (or Puerto Rican) pronunciation of her name in any way.
According to George Arzt, a spokesman for Velazquez, the Board of Elections elected to use a more literal translation this time, which resulted in the mix-up.
The campaign has tried to spread word about the mistranslation in the Chinese press, and both versions appear on the palm card Velazquez was handing out in Chinatown this morning. (The preferred name is the four-character one on top; the one in parentheses is the eight-character translation that appears on the ballot.)
Velazquez is facing her first real primary threat, from the machine-backed councilman Erik Dilan, since she was first elected to Congress in 1992.
A spokesperson for the Board of Elections told DNAInfo that the campaign notifies all the candidates of their translation, and that the campaign never registered an objection.