Republican state Rep. Betty Brown of Terrell, 32 miles east of Dallas, said through a spokesman her comment was not racially motivated but was an attempt to solve problems with identifying Asian names for voting purposes.
During a hearing Tuesday night, Brown responded to testimony from Ramey Ko, a representative of the Organization of Chinese Americans. He had said people of Chinese, Japanese and Korean descent often have problems voting because their legal transliterated name is often different from their common English name used on their driver's license and on school registrations, the Houston Chronicle reported.
"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?" said Brown, whose comments were posted on YouTube Thursday.
Brown later told Ko, "Can't you see that this is something that would make it a lot easier both for you and for the people who are poll workers if there were some means by which you could adopt a name just for identification purposes that's easier for the Americans to deal with?"
State Democratic Chairman Boyd Richie said Republicans were trying to suppress votes with a partisan identification bill and said Brown was "adding insult to injury with her disrespectful comments."
Brown's spokesman said Democrats were trying to blow Brown's comments out of proportion because polls showed most voters support requiring identification for voting.