Maine has started getting rid of its profanity-laced vanity plates

Maine is on a mission to clean up its streets, one expletive-filled license plate at a time.

The Maine Secretary of State’s office has begun to enforce new regulations on the content of state-issued license plates, sending out recall letters to owners of problematic plates.

The story of Maine’s explicit license plates starts in 2015, when the state effectively ended the vetting process for vanity plates. Starting in 2015, the Secretary of State was only able to reject license plates which suggested an association with a public institution, duplicated another plate, or encouraged violence or unlawful activity.

But a new law passed in 2021 established the Secretary of State’s authority to recall or refuse to issue license plates with profanity, slurs, or reference to criminal activity, according to CNN affiliate WGME.

Now, the office has finished hashing out the details and started enforcing the new rules, WGME reported.

The Maine Secretary of State’s office sent out its first recall letters on October 12, according to a statement shared with CNN over email.

“Incitement to violence, profanity, ethnic, racial, religious, or other slurs, or reference to illegal or criminal activity — all of which unfortunately can be seen on Maine registration plates today — are all directly contrary to the public interest,” said Maine Secretary of State Shenna Bellows in the statement.

“The First Amendment protects your right to have any bumper sticker you want, but it doesn’t force the state to issue official registration plates that subject children in our communities to obscenity or profanity,” Bellows explained.

“Our staff routinely receives complaints from Mainers who are shocked that these messages are on the roadways on state-issued license plates, and the Legislature heard their concerns and changed the law,” she added.

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