Furor over license plates: One was issued over 10 years ago, while another slipped through screening in 2020 - Must Read Alaska
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Friday, July 23, 2021
HomePoliticsFuror over license plates: One was issued over 10 years ago, while another slipped through screening in 2020

Furor over license plates: One was issued over 10 years ago, while another slipped through screening in 2020

The Department of Administration has updated the public on the issue that arose last week after two vanity license plates caught the attention of some members of the public.

One license plate spelled FUHRER — it’s a plate that had been issued over 10 years ago and had been revoked.

The other was 3REICH. That plate was issued last year and has now been revoked by the Division of Motor Vehicles.

List of rejected licenses plates from 2018-2021:

In a press release from the Department of Administration, the state says that over the past three years, the DMV has processed an average of 9,000 personalized license plate applications per year — combinations of letters or slogans that make up what is sometimes called a “vanity plate.”

Each week, an electronic system screens personalized plate requests using a list of approximately 11,450 vulgar, violent, criminal, and/or demeaning terms. The personalized plate proposals are also reviewed by staff to ensure they do not include prohibited references or terms. An employee independently reviews the list of personalized plate requests and if a potentially inappropriate character combination is identified, the application is flagged for further review by a panel of at least three employees.

For an application of a plate that has been flagged for further consideration to be approved, two of the three members on the panel must vote to approve it. If the panel votes to approve, the application then moves forward for the plate to be manufactured and sent to the customer. If the majority rules that it should not be approved, the DMV will deny the application.

In the event that a plate with vulgar, violent, criminal, or demeaning terminology has erroneously been approved, the DMV has established a recall process, the department explained. That is triggered when a member of the community reports to the DMV a concern regarding a potentially offensive or inappropriate plate. The plate in question is reviewed by a recall panel of at least three staff who consider and vote on whether it complies with the personalized plate standards in 2 AAC 92.120. If the majority concludes that it does not, the DMV will recall the personalized plate, notify the customer of the recall, and issue an alternate set of customer plates. It is important to note the practice of issuing personalized plates assumes the plate is not offensive to members of the community and that, if complaints are received, the plate is subject to being recalled.

The 3REICH plate was applied for in October, 2020 and was subject to an electronic screening process, which did not flag it, because the term is not among the 11,450 terms not allowed. An employee reviewing the hundreds of other unfledged plates did not notice the term, and the plate was issued on Nov. 3, 2020. On January 14, 2021, the DMV received a report of concern regarding the plate via email. The DMV recalled the plate on Jan. 21, 2021.

The FUHRER plate in question was originally issued by the DMV over a decade ago.

“Because the ‘FUHRER’ plate was issued over ten years ago, the DMV has little information surrounding the processes in place at that time. A complaint regarding the plate was received by the DMV via email on September 16, 2020. The Division recalled the plate on October 11, 2020,” the division wrote.

Officially, both the plates involved in this review, “FUHRER” and “3REICH,” were recalled by the DMV and revoked from the customer.

As it turns out, the same customer owned both plates at different times. Must Read Alaska has learned that the owner of the plates lives in Butte, an area of District 12 in the Mat-Su Valley.

The Department is examining current DMV policy regarding personalized license plates expression. In 2015, in Walker v. Texas Division, Sons of Confederate Veterans, 576 U.S. 200 (2015), the United States Supreme Court held that license plates are “government speech” and consequently states can regulate and restrict their content under the First Amendment. Notably, the Court held that just as a State cannot require an individual to convey the State’s ideologicalmessage, an individual cannot force the State to include a message on its license plate.

The American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators advises that when administering a personalized license plate program, states should be neutral and consistent while recognizing that societal norms change over time.

2 AAC 92.12 states “the department will not issue personalized license plates that display: (1) symbols in a combination identical to one already in use on a registration plate; (2) a total of more than six or less than two symbols;
(3) symbols other than numbers or letters; or (4) symbols in a combination that demeans an ethnic, religious, or racial group, or that is otherwise vulgar, indecent, or has sexual connotations; any combination known by the department to have a sexual connotation or to be patently offensive to a person of ordinary sensibilities will be considered vulgar or indecent; any combination known by the department to be patently offensive to an ethnic, religious, or racial group will be considered demeaning to that group.”

At times, the DMV has enforced and interpreted the policy addressing personalized plates more strictly than the Alaska Administrative Code requires, the department wrote.

“Going forward, the Department seeks to ensure more accurate adherence and compliance with the regulation which allows for a greater level of expression than previously interpreted. Consistent with the regulation, the DMV will establish and implement an application policy and process which prohibits plate symbols that demean any ethnic, religious, or racial group, or include otherwise vulgar, violent, or criminal terms. The Department will also strive to improve the application review process to reduce the risk of error due to manual entry mistakes, human bias, and subjectivity,” the department wrote.

Furthermore, the DMV noted:

  • The terms 3REICH and FUHRER, and their variations, have been added to the electronic screening system.
  • The DMV’s list will undergo a review and be updated to add additional references to vulgar, violent, criminal, and derogatory terms, per the criteria in the Alaska Administrative Code (2 AAC 92.120).
  • Plates flagged by the electronic system will be reviewed by a committee when staff is uncertain whether they meet acceptable criteria. This will reduce human subjectivity and error in determining the content of personalized plates.
  • The DMV will have two or more staff members be responsible for the initial review of personalized plate applications, in addition to the electronic screening system. The application and review process will be reviewed and strengthened if necessary.
  • The DMV will enhance and expand current use of nationally accepted best practices, as explained in the AAMVA Second Edition of Best Practices for Managing Vanity and Specialty License Plate Programs.
  • The division will consider filtering requests through an algorithm programmed to identify text commonly used in social media platforms to convey vulgar and offensive concepts.
  • The division will proactively review the list of registered personalized plates to ensure there are no unacceptable plates on Alaska’s roadways.
  • DMV will create a reporting mechanism by which emerging drug culture and other problematic phrases can be reported to the DMV.In facilitating the personalized plate program, it is incumbent upon the DMV to remain neutral and consistent in promoting civility while also creating opportunity for personal expression.
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Written by

Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Much ado about nothing re these plates!! Except for their convenience in “ nazi- baiting” for those nefarious individuals looking for an opportunity to castigate another person.

  • Get a Life SHEEPLE

  • I feel so much safer now. It’s like wearing a mask or enacting a lockdown. I’m NOT any safer, but I feel safer..so that’s good.

  • Wow, how many of those declined plates could be peoples names?

  • It seems when rule breakers want to start following rules after not following rules, they just make a big mess because of decades being relaxed about enforcing rules. Its “loser hill” story all over agian bringing up campaign sign violation.
    Rule makers not quick to enforce a rule just make everyone crazy like feeling everyone is against them.
    Personally i think plates hard to read i think the driver should had found a clearer message. Some plates are only known by the driver. Hahaha

  • The 1st Amendment ruling makes sense: “…the Court held that just as a State cannot require an individual to convey the State’s ideological message, an individual cannot force the State to include a message on its license plate.”

    Too often, you hear folks squealing about “their rights”, but way too often they don’t really know what they’re talking about.

  • A tempest in a teapot…

  • Thanks for posting that case law. That case law was news to me.

  • Evil license plates. Fix them and everything in Alaska will be better.

    This is why we’ve gone to hell. We’re not a serious people anymore.

    Petty people obsessed with 1st world problems

  • TRMP24

  • Is ‘douche’ on the restricted list? (To shower) is ‘Biden’ on the restricted list? Biden is an old school racist who has said extremely racist things and vouched for racism while in authority. Let’s just ban customized plates altogether cause apparently Alaskans are too weak minded to be subjected to bad words it would seem.

  • Two-minutes hate brought to you by local media and the Assembly majority. The public employee unions that put them into power must be very proud. Cheers –

  • Perhaps it would be fitting if current govt vehicles display the 3reich plate. We seem to be heading towards the same thing.

  • There goes your free speech, what’s next.
    What color your car can be

    • You need to learn just what “free speech” is. Good luck and tough noogies until you do.

  • I used to see an early 2000 model Chevy pickup in Anchorage with the plate MYTWYT. He had it because his pickup was totally white with a moderate lift. White everything. Saw it some years later with a generic plate. I managed to ask him why (at a stop light) and he said he was forced to surrender it. Now then, a few tears later I saw a completely blacked out high dollar sedan with BLKPWR as the plate, driven by a black dude. Moral is that the rules don’t apply to everyone.

    • They never have, why are you surprised?

  • creative censorship.

  • If FUHRER is censored would BADDAD be as well?

    What a strikingly petty non-issue.

  • Only relevant question: who owns the plates?

    • Only relevant answer: Who cares? ?‍♂️

      • With ownership comes property rights Einstein.

      • With ownership comes property rights. It’s the core point of this entire discussion.

        (is that better Suzanne?)

        • Your pedantics aside, the core point to the entire discussion seems to be the inconsistency of DMV decisions on vanity plates..but what-evs, Adam Henry.. ?‍♂️

  • The BS licence is initials of an elderly person. I know that for a fact.

  • Don’t they have anything better to do?

  • I just saw a car with the personalized plate “JAWOHL”. I don’t know if it was a Nazi driving the vehicle but he looked an awful lot like Col. Klink…

  • I followed a blue Jeep today w/ the plate BSCBCH.

    Should I be offended?

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