Updated: Sunday, 12 Apr 2009, 9:10 PM CDT
Published : Sunday, 12 Apr 2009, 9:10 PM CDT
AUSTIN (KXAN) - The Texas Capitol was filled with the commotion surrounding one house members’ comments made during a hearing over the Voter ID bill. The remarks Rep. Brown made during the hearing of an already controversial debate resulted in an increased interest. These now infamous words have forced Ramey Ko, the receiving end of the statements, to speak out in response. Ko stopped by the KXAN studio to open up about the incident that made Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update.
Ramey Ko is the man who testified last Wednesday against the Voter ID bill before the House Elections committee, which includes Representative Betty Brown. Ko told lawmakers that Asian-Americans that live in states that required a photo ID at the polls were being denied the right to vote because the name on their identification card and the name on the voter rolls sometimes did not match.
"Chinese, Japanese and Korean names are not written with the English alphabet and frequently have multiple parts," said Ko. "When they transliterate these names, there are frequently inconsistencies."
Apparently, not fully understanding the problem, Brown offered up a suggestion that inspired gasps throughout the hearing room. "Well, rather than everyone here having to learn Chinese, as I understand, it's a rather difficult language," said Brown. "Do you think it would behoove you and your citizens to adopt a name that we could deal with more readily here?"
When Ko told her how changing names is actually the problem instead of the solution, Brown tried to explain the reasoning behind her suggestion.
"This is something that would make it a lot easier both for you and poll workers if there was some name you could adopt just for these identification purposes that would be easier for Americans to deal with," said Brown. Many found these statements to be culturally insensitive, including the Texas Democratic Party.
Since the incident Rep. Brown has apologized to many, including Ko personally. He told Jenny Hoff in their Sunday morning interview that overall, he is glad the topic is getting attention. Ko said he has hopes this helps educate the public about the issues some naturalized Asian Americans face and the stereotypes that still exist.
Stipulations of the Bill
Under current law, to vote a regular ballot, voters are only required to present a voter registration certificate to a poll worker.
SB 362 would require all voters present a valid form of photo identification to the polls. If a person does not have a state ID or driver's license or other form of photo identification, they could be bring in two other forms of approved identification instead (utility bill, cable bill, etc).
The bill mandates the Secretary of State educate the public on
the new voting law by posting a notice on the website and on the
websites of local polling locations. The bill also mandates the
Texas Department of Public Safety not charge people who want to
obtain a state issued ID solely for the purpose of voting.