May 24, 2024

In a landslide, Kansas picks a new license plate. It recalls sunsets and features the Capitol dome

This artist rendering released by the Kansas Governor’s Office on Monday, Dec. 18, 2023, in Topeka, Kan., shows the winning design for a new standard state license plate that drivers will start receiving in 2024 when they renew their annual vehicle registrations. The state proposed five designs and allowed Kansas residents to vote online after criticism of an earlier design caused it to be scuttled. (Kansas Governor’s Office via AP)

By JOHN HANNA Associated Press
TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — The next standard Kansas license plate will have bands of light gold and blue that recall a prairie sunset and an image of the Statehouse dome following an online vote, Gov. Laura Kelly’s office announced Monday.
It was the landslide favorite among five possible choices made public by the state last week, according to Kelly’s office. But the voting did not completely quiet the hubbub because some lawmakers and social media users didn’t like any of the five.
The Democratic governor halted work on an earlier design that had been criticized as ugly, uninspired, too closely resembling a New York plate and reminding people of the University of Missouri’s black and gold colors.
Kansas residents cast about 270,000 votes online over five days last week, the governor’s office said. The winning design received about 140,000 votes, or 53% of the total. The other four split the rest, with the runner up receiving only 19%. Only votes from people listing Kansas ZIP codes were accepted.
The state’s current plate is light blue and features part of the state seal. The new design also has “to the stars” in blue script at the bottom, a reference to the state’s motto, “Ad astra per aspera,” or, “To the stars through difficulties.”
“It’s great to see Kansans’ passion for representing our great state,” Kelly said in a statement. “Now, we can move forward on a design that received majority support and get clearer, safer license plates on the streets as soon as possible.”
The previous, much-maligned design released by the state Department of Revenue was mostly gold with numbers and letters in dark blue. The winning design will have its numbers and letters in black to make it easier for law enforcement to read.
Kansas residents will receive the new plates when they go to renew their annual vehicle registrations and will pay 50 cents for the single required plate that goes on the back of a vehicle. They can also buy one of dozens of specialty plates for an extra $45. The state budget sets aside up to $9.8 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to pay for producing the plates.
The Department of Revenue, which licenses drivers, has said the current plates have deteriorated over their 16 years of use, making them harder to read. But with the first design, the governor immediately faced the prospects that an upset, Republican-controlled Legislature would overturn her decision.
Senate President Ty Masterson, a Wichita-area Republican, told reporters that the new design, depicting the Statehouse dome, was his favorite of the five.
Others, including Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach, a Republican, touted designs that weren’t eligible, including one with wheat fields and sunflowers.
“The new proposed license plates are an improvement,” Kobach wrote. “But what about something like this?”
Last week, some social media users said that they didn’t like any of the designs — and some tweeted alternative options.
Kelly said designs circulating on social media and sent to her office are “beautiful works of art” but don’t follow guidelines meant to make plates easier to produce and national standards meant to promote readability.
“Kansans will notice that license plates across the country are moving to simpler designs,” Kelly said in her statement. “Our number one priority with these license plates is safety.”
State Rep. Nick Hoheisel identified the eventual winner as his favorite of the five, but he made it clear by words and emojis in a tweet that he was not enthusiastic about the options.
“Can we at least replace ‘to the stars’ with the Latin version?” he said.