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Excelsior plate

The design of the new official state license plate. 

Beginning in April 2020, New York's official license plate will feature images of Niagara Falls and the Statue of Liberty. 

The state Department of Motor Vehicles on Friday announced the winning license plate design. The design, dubbed "Plate 5," beat out four others in an online vote that concluded Monday. 

The license plate, which will be manufactured at Auburn Correctional Facility, has a white background with blue and gold lettering and lines. On the bottom left is an image of Niagara Falls. "Excelsior," the state's motto, appears in the middle. Images of the Statue of Liberty and the New York City skyline appear in the bottom right. 

Plate 5 was the overwhelming favorite. More than 325,000 New Yorkers voted in the license plate survey, according to the state DMV. The winning design received 49.7% of the vote. 

The runner-up was Plate 1, which featured a large image of the Statue of Liberty on the left. That design received 16% of the vote. Plate 4 — a design featuring the U.S. motto, "E. Pluribus Unun," and the state motto with the Statue of Liberty's torch in the middle — finished third with 14.9% of the vote. 

Plates 2 and 3 each received 9.7% in the vote. Plate 3 was notable because it featured the Gov. Mario M. Cuomo Bridge. 

While there was some online speculation that the vote was rigged in favor of the Cuomo bridge, the final tally indicates it wasn't close. The plate featuring parts of upstate and downstate was the preferred design of nearly half of those surveyed. 

"The design overwhelming selected by New Yorkers showcases some of our most iconic symbols and truly represents what the Empire State is all about — our diversity, our unparalleled architecture and natural beauty, and our unyielding commitment to freedom and justice for all," DMV Commissioner Mark Schroeder said. 

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The license plate redesign has received attention for another reason: The mandatory replacement program that the state plans to proceed with next year. 

Once the new plates are released in April, they will replace the Empire blue and white plates and the state DMV will no longer issue the Empire blue and gold plates. The new plates are necessary, the Cuomo administration says, to ensure they are readable by cashless tolling systems and law enforcement. More than 3 million license plates are over 10 years old, according to the governor's office, and many of them are damaged or peeling. 

Drivers with license plates that are more than 10 years old must get the new plates. The replacement plates will be provided when drivers renew their vehicle's registration. 

There will be a one-time $25 fee for the new plates, plus an additional $20 fee if customers wish to keep their existing license plate number. 

Cuomo has been criticized for the mandate and the fee. Some Republican lawmakers have introduced legislation to block the fee. County clerks called the license plate replacement program an "unnecessary money grab." 

In a statement Friday, Schroeder said he's willing to work with legislators to "establish a cost-effective system to distribute the new plates." 

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Online producer Robert Harding can be reached at (315) 282-2220 or robert.harding@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @robertharding.

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Online producer and politics reporter

I have been The Citizen's online producer and politics reporter since December 2009. I'm the author of the Eye on NY blog and write the weekly Eye on NY column that appears every Sunday in the print edition of The Citizen and online at auburnpub.com.