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Designer gets a 2nd shot at Ga. tag contest
State restarts it after confusion about In God We Trust motto
Don Bolt of Flowery Branch designed one of the Georgia license plates that is now back in the running in the state’s online vote.

Don Bolt and his license plate design have a second chance.

The Flowery Branch resident created one of the eight designs that was up for online voting earlier this month to become Georgia's next license plate.

Now, after confusion over whether the motto "In God We Trust" would be on the winning design, the voting is starting over Monday and will run for three weeks.

Some designs had featured the words, but that only represented an optional sticker that costs $1 and never was going to be part of the final design.

Neither the county name nor the motto will be displayed online on any of the design finalist entries this time.

"It just seemed to me that it no longer became a design contest, it became a religion contest," Bolt said. "... It seemed unfair to the eight finalists. I mean they're all good designs, don't get me wrong, but each one has its own strength."

And Bolt thinks his has a good shot at winning the second time around.

"It's easy to read. It will actually lend itself better to many applications," Bolt said. "It could be the guy with the big ol' hemi Ram pickup truck and it could be easy on the little Honda Civic hybrid."

Bolt's design features green foliage across the top with a peach hanging down in the middle and in white. The contest required all designs to include a peach theme.

"My inspiration was just ripe peaches and the green," he said. "And the colors are just so beautiful, really easy to work with - that was something I really liked." He added that he aimed to keep the design clean and simple.

Bolt has a strong background in graphic design, with a degree in the field and experience doing design work for advertising agencies, marketing companies and newspapers.

He works as a senior designer for a Fortune 500 company, and he and his wife also do graphic work on the side.

"I've been in the design and art field ever since I was a little kid. It's all I've ever known," he said. "... This is the one thing I'm good at."

In fact, earlier this year he won the Spring Chicken Festival art contest put on by Frames You-Nique during the annual Gainesville event. His painting, featuring a happy chicken wearing springs on its feet, was used on T-shirts and posters.

Don Griffin, owner of Frames You-Nique, said he voted for Bolt's license plate design the first time around and will now be voting for it again.

"Frankly, because I like him — personality," Griffin said of why he voted for Bolt's design. "I think his image was every bit as good as the rest of them, and when you get to that point, I think personality plays into it." The clean, white design was also good, he added.

Bolt, though, said some voted for his design without knowing until later that it was his.

More than 500 design entries were submitted by the public. A panel of Georgia college and university art professors narrowed the selection to eight.

An online public vote chose the final three designs, and Gov. Nathan Deal had been set to take the wraps off the new Georgia plate Friday at the state Capitol before the uproar over the motto began.

Jerry Luquire, president of the Georgia Christian Coalition, said he didn't understand the drama.

"Some people will never be clear on anything," he said.

"Some people are offended that it's even an option. They don't want it available. I think optional is great. I know some conservative groups who wanted (the motto) applied to the license tag without option. I think that's wrong."

Department of Revenue Commissioner Doug MacGinnitie said Georgia law states that license plates have to display either a county name or the "In God We Trust" label at the bottom. He acknowledged that his office may have contributed to the confusion over whether the motto would be part of the new design.

"We heard back from a number of individuals and different parties from around the state, and in an abundance of caution, we want to make sure everybody feels like it's a fair process," MacGinnitie said.

Attempts to reach the Atlanta Freethought Society on Friday for comment on the issue were unsuccessful. The group seeks to educate the public about the separation of church and state.

MacGinnitie also addressed claims that people were allowed to vote on the designs more than once. He said Friday his office is doing "what we can to make sure people only vote one time."

Bolt said he will be keeping his fingers crossed.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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