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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Canceled personalized license plate letters sent in error to Washington residents

Spokane County Courthouse. (DAN PELLE/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW)  (C)

The Spokane County Auditor’s Office is urging residents to ignore a letter sent by state officials Aug. 4 erroneously informing them their personalized license plates have been canceled.

The Washington Department of Licensing sent the letters in error following an upgrade of its vehicle licensing system last month, Thomas Charlson, a spokesman for the agency, said Tuesday. The department believes it mailed 41,383 erroneous notices to Washington drivers, about half of the total number of active personalized license plates in the state, he said.

The department intends to send out notifications of the error in the mail soon, Charlson said. Drivers can check their registration status online at

The mix-up caused a flurry of phone calls to the Spokane County Auditor’s Office earlier this week. Spokane County Auditor Vicky Dalton said her office was made aware of the letters Monday after several residents called in a panic that their personalized plates had become publicly available again. That’s not the case.

“It’s the entire state, thousands of vehicle owners across the state,” Dalton said.

The notifications were mailed to drivers who transferred their personalized plates from one vehicle to another. State and county officials don’t know if the group that received the letter include just those who’ve recently transferred their plate, or if the error goes back further.

Dalton said the plates, which cost $42 annually on top of additional fees, can be significant to drivers and wanted to assure them that their number had not been canceled.

“Personalized plates mean a lot to those vehicle owners,” Dalton said. She could not provide numbers about how many personalized plate owners resided in Spokane County.

A portion of the fees collected from the sale and renewal of the plates goes to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for the care of sick and injured animals.