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After an offensive license plate slips by, how easy is it for this to happen?

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Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - It's being called racist, rude and downright mean.

A license plate in Minnesota reading "FMUSLMS” has been revoked after a social media firestorm and the big question everyone has is "how could that slip by the DMV?"

Each state has their own way of checking but they go through a process where people physically have to look them over and some can slip by.

Tab and plate renewal and heading to the DMV is something many avoid. But some people will do anything for their custom license plates, like Maria Wilson, whose plates scream her heritage.

“The word OPA is "opa", so it means "Woo!" It's a party word,” said Wilson.

She's not alone.

“They're really popular,”

Fargo DMV Assistant Manager, Penny Johanneck, checks over roughly 25 custom requests a day.

“You have to fill out what you want the plate to say and why you want it to say that,” said Johanneck.

The importance of her job is top of mind after this plate was protested in the St. Cloud area.

It's now been revoked, and Minnesota governor Mark Dayton is saying the unidentified plate owner should be ashamed.

He's also calling for the Department of Public Safety to look into its policies to make sure racism never slips by.

A task Johanneck says she's never had to worry about.

“Not that I can recall, I've ever had a racist one,” said Johanneck.

But she does have common problems.

“We deny a lot with the number 69. That comes up a lot, especially with young guys,” said Johanneck.

In North Dakota, custom requests go through a form, then a clerk personally reviews it.

If it passes, it goes to a board that checks it even further. And one of their biggest tools? Population slang website urban dictionary. 

“Someone runs it through a website and those letters could mean something else,” said Johanneck.

She says sometimes they do slip by, especially if they're tricky and only offensive when viewed in a mirror.

But from that incident, Johanneck says they've become more aware and are adapting, in hopes of offending no one.

“We're a lot harder on them now, so now they have to think harder,” said Johanneck.

Minnesota's Department of Public Safety has since apologized for the offensive plates and they're in the process of getting them back.

Amy Unrau

Amy is proud to be a Red River Valley native and cover stories that matter to her community. She was raised in Hallock, Minnesota and received her degree at the University of North Dakota where she participated in the student run TV show Studio One. In college, Amy met her husband, WDAY’s Jody Norstedt, while interning at WDAZ in Grand Forks. She started at WDAY in April 2014 and is currently WDAY'Z Xtra News at Nine's anchor and producer. Have a news idea? Amy would love to share your story or investigate an issue you’re concerned about.

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