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RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – The North Carolina Department of Motor Vehicles recently conducted a review of its “Do Not Issue” list for license plates.
DMV Commissioner Wayne Goodwin said this is the first time the DMV has done a full review of the list.
The list contains nearly 10,000 phrases that can’t go on a license plate. Some phrases, including LGBTQ phrases, were removed from the list during the review process, and new words are constantly added.
CBS 17 asked Goodwin how it’s possible for so many banned phrases to exist.
“It is a rabbit hole and it’s easy to fall into the rabbit hole, but folks are crafty, creative, and cunning,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin said the department finished reviewing the list at the end of 2022, a process that took months. Not all the words on the list are malicious like 911, or a row of Ws the DMV said are confusing to read.
Other phrases are clear hate speech.
Wake County Commissioner for District 7, Vickie Adamson, said earlier this month The Jewish Federation of Raleigh-Cary sent her a photo of a license plate with an anti-Semitic slur that a community member sent to them.
“I was like ‘what is wrong with us’, you know, that was absolutely my first reaction is ‘oh my goodness’,” Adamson said.
She reported it to Commissioner Goodwin in early January.
DMV Spokesperson Marty Homan said the driver in question was sent a letter in October along with a new license plate.
He said the person failed to turn in their plate. License and Theft Bureau officers were called in to get it.
Homan said the driver had a previous plate recalled with the same phrase, the only difference was an “S” at the end instead of a “5.”
Goodwin said they have received complaints about other offending plates, including one containing the word “ARYAN”, that is in Nazi ideology.
CBS 17 asked Goodwin how these terms get on plates in the first place.
“Well we receive hundreds of these a month and it may not appear, have originally appeared on the list, or people use, people have used letters — instead of a letter “E” they’ll use a “3,” Goodwin said.
He said each plate is manually reviewed before it’s issued. He doesn’t have an estimate of how many plates are out there that shouldn’t be.
“And then you of course wonder who did it belong to, you know, who would feel the need to put that on a license plate?” Adamson said.
Goodwin said they’ve recently made the committee that reviews hateful terms more diverse.
One example he gave of a plate that seems ok on the surface is “ASL,” which could be associated with American Sign Language, but when the agency googled it, results from “age, sex, location” came up.
Phil Brodsky, the CEO of The Jewish Federation of Raleigh-Cary, said the group is grateful for the support and response on behalf of the Jewish community and all targeted groups.