Kansas opens voting on new license plate after facing criticism over previous design

  • Kansas is letting people vote on five new license plate designs, including one criticized for resembling a previous unpopular design.
  • Gov. Laura Kelly’s office opened online voting, which runs until Friday at 5 p.m., and only votes from Kansas ZIP codes will be counted.
  • The state is replacing the current navy on light blue design due to deterioration and difficulty for police to read.

Kansas has opened voting on five proposed designs for a new license plate, including one that closely resembles a previous design criticized and pulled for being uninspired, reminding people of the University of Missouri and too closely resembling one of New York’s plates.

Gov. Laura Kelly’s office announced Monday that voting online was open as of 9 a.m. and that it would close Friday at 5 p.m. A website set up by the state requires voters to give their names and ZIP codes. Only votes from Kansas ZIP codes will be counted.

“I encourage Kansans to make their voices heard and am looking forward to announcing the winner next week,” Kelly said in a statement.

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Each proposed plate features a combination of seven numbers and letters in black and the first half of the state’s motto, “To the stars,” at the bottom.

This art illustration from the Kansas Department of Revenue, provided on Nov. 28. 2023, shows the design for a new, standard vehicle license plate that the state had planned to start issuing in March 2024. Criticism of the design has prompted Gov. Laura Kelly to halt its production and promise a public vote on several possible designs. (Kansas Department of Revenue via AP)

The Democratic governor’s administration recalled the second part of the state’s motto — “through difficulties” — in rolling out the previous design the day before Thanksgiving. Members of the Republican-controlled Legislature immediately threatened to intervene once lawmakers reconvene in January.

Some critics thought the navy blue and gold design was drab and ugly. Others thought the design too closely recalled the University of Missouri’s gold and black colors. Still others, including Attorney General Kris Kobach, a Republican, noted its resemblance to a New York plate known as “Empire Gold.”

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Nevertheless, one of the five designs resembles the previous design. Others feature wheat stalks, sunflowers and the Statehouse dome.

The state is replacing its current design of navy numbers and letters on light blue because the plates have deteriorated and become harder for police to read.

The original plan was to start giving motorists the plate with the now-disfavored design in March when they renewed their vehicle registrations, charging them 50 cents for the required rear plate unless they wanted to pay an extra $45 for a specialized plate.

Kelly said that her office had received some designs from the public and said some of them were “beautiful.” However, she said the state is moving ahead with voting now on five designs “to get safer plates on the streets as soon as possible.”

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