Voting-Rights Rally Features Giant Checks

Posted April 11, 2003 at 2:45pm

While at least 20 “lottery-size” checks will be handed over at Freedom Plaza on Tuesday, don’t bother looking for Ed McMahon and the Publishers Clearing House Prize Patrol.

The giant 2-by-3-foot checks will be used by advocates of Congressional representation for the District of Columbia at the D.C. Voting Rights Day Rally, beginning at 5 p.m. at Pennsylvania Avenue and 14th Street Northwest.

The checks, some imprinted with the message “Taxation Without Representation is Tyranny,” are intended to convey the message: “We’ll pay you our taxes, we’ll fulfill these responsibilities, but you need to work on giving us rights that come with those responsibilities,” said Kevin Kiger, a spokesman for D.C. Vote, a nonprofit group promoting Congressional representation for the District.

D.C. Representation Alliance for Ballot Box and Legislative Equality, an umbrella organization that advocates civil disobedience and protest to promote both home rule and voting rights, designed the giant checks as part of its “Tax Obstruction Campaign.”

The checks comply with the Uniform Commercial Code, making them legal for use as a form of payment.

“It’s very difficult for the government to process,” Kiger said. “It takes them more time, it costs them more money. But they also can’t do it without getting the message … that taxation without representation is wrong.”

Organizers hope to garner more attention with the check project than the method used at last year’s Tax Day Rally, during which protesters burned copies of their tax forms.

“This is a much more positive message. It’s, ‘Hey, we’re paying our taxes but you guys need to take a look and really listen to what’s going on here in D.C.,’” Kiger said.

Because the Federal Reserve Bank can decline checks that require special handling, Kiger said participants are encouraged to pay only a portion of their taxes with the documents.

Taxpayers interested in using one of the oversized checks — which range in size from 8.5-by-11 inches and up — can download them from D.C. Rabble’s Web site, www.dcrabble.org.

Scheduled to participate in the rally are D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), Mayor Anthony Williams (D), the District’s shadow Congressional delegation and D.C. City Council members. Miss District of Columbia 2003, Michelle Dollie Wright, will emcee the event, which will feature more than a dozen organizations dedicated to Congressional representation or statehood.

The mayor will also hold a formal signing ceremony of legislation which would move the District’s 2004 presidential primary to Jan. 13, making it the first in the nation.

“The American people hear a lot about Iowa and New Hampshire issues during a presidential campaign, so we want to make sure the American public will focus on D.C. issues,” said Shadow Sen. Paul Strauss (D). “These candidates, and ideally the candidate that will hopefully become the next American president, will be both sensitized and perhaps more obligated to the citizens of the District of Columbia than they have been when we’ve had one of the last primaries.”

Voting rights advocates expect Congress to approve the legislation.