Texas

Denied! These personalized license plates were rejected in Texas in 2018

How License Plates are Made in Texas

My Plates tours the Wynne Unit, a medium-security prison in Huntsville, TX. All Texas license plates are made at the Wynne Unit, including more than 150 specialty plate designs offered by My plates.
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My Plates tours the Wynne Unit, a medium-security prison in Huntsville, TX. All Texas license plates are made at the Wynne Unit, including more than 150 specialty plate designs offered by My plates.

Some people are serious about sharing their political points of view.

Even when driving around town or across the state they want to broadcast certain opinions.

But there are a few messages — political and otherwise — that state officials believe Texans should keep to themselves.

As a result, 3,799 proposed personalized license plates were rejected last year by the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles for violating approval guidelines.

Among those messages: SNO FLK, DMPTRMP, THE PREZ and LOKHMUP.

There were plenty of non-political messages turned down as well, including WHO FRTD, U BIGMAD, YER MOM, HII UGLY and PASTGAS, according to a list of rejected vanity plates obtained by the Star-Telegram through an open records request.

“There is a fine line between expressing one’s political opinions and offensive speech officially sanctioned by the State of Texas on license plates,” said Brandon Rottinghaus, a political science professor at the University of Houston. “The state doesn’t want to be liable for confrontations resulting from unhappy drivers who see messages offensive to them.

“Some motorists who see these plates would smile but others would be angry. The state has an obligation to vet these (before) any possible trouble arises.”

Reviewing requests

Teams of workers at the DMV review all requests for license plates based on the Texas Administrative Code.

They look for indecent, vulgar, racist or derogatory terms. They also keep an eye out for any reference to gangs or illegal activities, implied threats of harm and references to illegal drugs, sexual acts and bodily functions.

Any reference to “race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, whether the reference is derogatory or not,” is denied. Also rejected are plates that refer to law enforcement, military branches or other governmental entities, including any official government position or status.

Other political messages rejected last year included: CNN FAKE, GOV-2030, FKTAXES, M4YOR and 1*POTUS.

More non-political messages rejected included: HAIL YAH, TXSUX, SHE-NSTY, OFCR PLS, GET N8KD, KEPT MAN and BIG@MAMA.

Appeals

Applicants may appeal if their request is rejected. The appeals must be in writing. There are no hearings, according to the state’s Administrative Code.

The department’s executive director will issue a decision about a month after the appeal is received — and that decision is final.

Some give props to Texans for their creativity and desire to deliver a message.

But maybe those motorists should look beyond the license plate.

“There are other ways to express opinions on cars the state sanctions,” Rottinghaus said. “The state already allows motorists to purchase specific plates memorializing or celebrating issues that have been carefully vetted by the state.

“The state is better off organizing constructive political opinions that way to minimize anger on the roads.”

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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.
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