Courts & Crime

Alaska vanity plates: Why BLOME is OK, but ORGZMC isn't

There's no question Alaska drivers love personalized license plates. One in 20 Alaska vehicles has them, according to a recent survey by the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, ranking the state 13th in the nation.

What did you see on the way to work?




Some plates are a mystery. Some are good for a laugh. But what happens when they have the potential to offend? That's when the DMV steps in. The Division of Motor Vehicles in Anchorage has a team of expert decoders who go through every personalized plate application to nix the obscene, the offensive and the racially discriminatory. It isn't an easy job.

"I don't think people realize what a process it is," said Shelly Mellot, one of the heads of a team of six screeners. Mellot says the committee often considers a younger audience when making decisions.

"How would I feel if my 10-year-old saw that?" she said. "Or asked me, 'What does that mean?' "

Of the roughly 130 applications per week, the committee turns down two or three, said office manager Oscar Zapata, the other head of the team.

They must have a majority "no" vote to have the plates kept off the road. People have different standards of what's OK. Some plates barely squeak through. In May, BUCWLD made it. ORGZMC did not.

Usually, if a plate is someone's name, it gets through. But what if the name can be read two ways? That's when you get cases like the Blome (pronounced like "home") family. Their plates, BLOME and BLOME2, have been on their cars for years. Jennifer Blome, a first-grade teacher, said people occasionally mistake the letters on their plates for off- color messages. Just Tuesday she came out of Fred Meyer to someone taking a photo of her car.

"For the most part, people think it's kind of funny," she said.

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