Texans click, pick new license plate

AUSTIN -- Texans have clicked their picks for a new state license plate design, voting online in favor of open spaces rather than city skylines.

The Texas Department of Transportation said Monday it still needed a few days to validate the unofficial results of the weeklong vote. New plates will start going out next year.

Almost 1.2 million votes were cast, and nearly half went to a design called "Lone Star Texas," featuring a hilly range across the bottom and a partly cloudy Texas sky across most of the top.  The top left corner has streaks of blue and red behind a white star.

If the 456,000-plus votes check out and the design gets state approval, those images will replace the horse-mounted cowboy, cactus, oil derrick and fake night sky adorned with a space shuttle, moon and stars. The current plate, called "My Texas," finished last among five entrants with about 114,000 votes.

"I'm just really, really pleased that there really is one clear majority winner, even though it's unofficial results," said department spokeswoman Kim Sue Lia Perkes.

The state needs new plates because it's running low on six-digit combinations. The new plate, regardless of design, will have seven digits. The digits are divided into two sets by the state's distinctive outline, which is filled in by the flag design.

The winning plate has "TEXAS" in white block letters centered across the top and "The Lone Star State" in scripted letters centered across the bottom.

Finishing second with about 295,000 votes was "Natural Texas"

a shaded picture of a hillside covered with wildflowers, mostly bluebonnets, underneath a party cloudy sky.

"New Texas" finished third with about 127,000 votes. Its distinguishing feature was a collection of skylines from the state's biggest cities.

Perkes said her department was pleased-but not shocked-by the number of votes.

"There is just a Texas pride that you can't really explain to the outsiders so well," she said. "This license plate for a lot of Texans was a really important symbol to show that Texas pride."

Perkes said the design will be taken to the Texas Transportation Commission for final approval Feb. 28. Drivers who aren't required to get new plates can get the new design for a fee, and Perkes said the losing designs might be available as specialty plates, which carry additional fees.