WASHINGTON (AP/WJLA) - The advocacy group D.C. Vote has started a petition on the White House website calling for the presidential limousine to carry the District of Columbia's "Taxation Without Representation" license plates.
The District adopted “Taxation Without Representation” as its official license plate motto in 2000 to raise awareness about its lack of voting rights. Shortly before leaving office, President Bill Clinton used the official plate. President George W. Bush did not, and so far, neither has President Obama.
“We think it’s the right time, just the right time,” says James Jones of D.C. Vote. “He’s starting a second term, he’s made many statements supportive of voting rights for D.C. and he’s helped us out on a lot of other issues. We think this is a good time to do it to start a second term.”
President Obama has said he supports voting rights for D.C., but since his 2009 inauguration he has not used the District’s “Taxation Without Representation” license plates. Instead, he uses a generic license plate with the non-existent website “WashingtonDC.gov.”
“We think the symbolism of this is also very important, particularly when we can’t get anywhere when the rest of the country doesn’t know about our situation,” says Jones. “We think it’s an appropriate thing for him to do.”
D.C. Vote is encouraging Washingtonians to sign an online White House petition, asking the president to use the plates with D.C.’s famous slogan.
“Bill Clinton had it,” says Johnnie Thompson, a Washington resident.
Many residents support the petition drive.
“I think it’s a great idea. Why? Because it’s been a long time,” says Sherrill Mulhern. “And any little bit would help. It would be nice if he would make a statement like that.”
But others don’t think a license plate means much.
“I don’t think it will benefit the city,” says Carolyn Parks.
“I don’t think it’s going to be noticed the day of the Inauguration on his car,” says Lynn Holland. “It’d be a nice idea, but I don’t think it’s going to produce anything.”
But D.C. Vote says it’s still focused on legislative efforts and it will continue to fight for budget autonomy.
“We don’t think this is going to take away from those other efforts,” says Jones. “We’re continuing to forge ahead with those other efforts at the same time. We think we can do both.”
D.C. Vote says if 25,000 Washingtonians sign the petition on the White House website within 30 days the Obama Administration will provide a response. There is no guarantee the plates will be used, but advocates believe, either way, it raises awareness.
Advocates see the city's rapidly growing population as one more argument in their toolbox to push for statehood and voting rights. New estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau show the District's population now stands at 632,000, larger than the state of Vermont. It's a figure the city hasn't seen since the early 1980s.