State officials say they’ll know more about how Nazi references got on license plates soon

Department of Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka answers questions on Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget proposal on December 11, 2019, in Juneau. Her department oversees the DMV which issued a pair of personalized license plates referencing Nazi Germany. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

Within a few days, Alaska officials expect to share more about how the Division of Motor Vehicles managed to issue a pair of personalized license plates referencing Nazi Germany.

One refers to the Third Reich and the other spells out “fuhrer.”

A black Hummer with the license plate “3REICH” waits at a stoplight in Anchorage. (Photo courtesy Matt Tunseth)

The Alaska Department of Administration oversees the DMV. Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka announced Monday that the license plates in question “had previously been recalled by the DMV.” Tshibaka ordered a review of DMV guidelines and processes.

Administration spokesperson Kelly Hanke said that means the offensive plates’ owners were notified in writing that the plates were invalidated, and issued new ones.

Hanke said part of what’s being reviewed is what physically happens with recalled plates. The Anchorage Daily News reports that one of the offensive plates was spotted in traffic near downtown Anchorage on Friday evening.

Juneau Rep. Sara Hannan said she had messages from constituents waiting for her about the issue when she was in the office Saturday morning. She and others emailed the department, asking that it be looked into.

Rep. Sara Hannan in 2019. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)

“And I want to applaud the administration for rapidly answering it, you know?” she said. “This all blew up … in my world, on Saturday, and they answered it on Monday, and they have said in an email that they expect to have their review of this issue with the specific plate back out by the end of the week.”

At least one conservative Alaska commentator and an elected official have defended the offensive license plates as expressions of free speech. Gov. Mike Dunleavy apparently didn’t see it that way, and removed Anchorage Assembly Member Jamie Allard from the Alaska State Commission for Human Rights because of her commentary on the matter.

Rep. Hannan said you don’t have a right to free speech on government-issued license plates.

“And certainly for free speech rights, you can put a bumper sticker, you can paint it on the side of your car, but the government shouldn’t empower you and assist you in elevating that kind of speech,” she said.

Coincidentally, Wednesday was International Holocaust Remembrance Day. The United Nations established it to commemorate the day the Nazi death camp in Auschwitz, Poland, was liberated during World War II, and to remember the millions of Jews and others the Nazis murdered.