The Michigan Secretary of State delivered a Christmas surprise to drivers across the state in December 2023 by introducing a new license plate design which was unveiled as a follow-up to the incredibly popular Water-Winter Wonderland plate.

The new Water Wonderland plates, see below, will be on sale in late January 2024.

Water Wonderland Michigan Plate
Michigan Secretary of State

What many people notice is that the colors, green and white, are seemingly a nod to Michigan State University. It's the color scheme of the Water Wonderland and Water-Winter Wonderland plates that are the heart of the conspiracy theory.

Michigan Licence Plate Conspiracy Theory Explained

The theory states that these recent retro plate releases are nods to the state's largest college, U of M in Ann Arbor and MSU in East Lansing.

When the Water-Winter Wonderland plates were introduced in December of 2021, Michigan State fans were quick to observe the color scheme of yellow on blue (maize?) was striking similar to the colors of the University of Michigan. T

What is driving the conspiracy is that the Secretary of State makes no mention of the color choices in the press releases announcing the new plates.

For the blue and yellow Water-Winter Wonderland plates, they are a reissue of places first seen on Michigan roads in 1965. In a press release, Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn

Benson noted that it is the plate the state used in 1965 when the National Voting Rights Act became law.

"I am proud to give Michiganders back a longtime favorite license plate that also marks a critical moment in the history of our nation's democracy," said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. "In 1965, we worked together as a nation to protect and advance voting rights in pursuit of a more perfect union, just as today we must come together as a nonpartisan, pro-democracy coalition to protect and advance our elections."

Similarly, in the press release for the green and white Water Wonderland places, historical context is given but no color connection to the East Lansing school:

The Michigan Department of State today announced the state is bringing back a green and white “Water Wonderland” license plate:

"I am proud to bring back a green and white plate that pays tribute to the civil rights advancements of 1963 along with a new, more secure Michigan driver's license and ID," said Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson. "The new plate will serve as a reminder of the work that still needs to be done to achieve full equality and justice for all...."

So the plates are intended, at least officially, to harken back to social movements of the era of their original issue. That doesn't stop many from seeing intentional or not nods to Michigan State and MSU.

The Truth Behind the College Color/Michigan Licence Plate Theory

Here's the likely truth - it's not a coincidence. State university color schemes have been used historically for the statewide issue of vehicle tags. According to Wikipedia's history of Michigan license plates, the Water Winter Wonderland plates of 1965 were specifically blue and yellow to honor the University of Michigan. After a different color was issued in 1966, the blue and yellow scheme returned in 1967 specifically to honor U of M's 150-year sesquicentennial.

What's interesting is that the 1962 Water Wonderland plates were green lettering on a white background but it's not noted that this was done with a nod to Michigan State. The re-issue flips the colors with white lettering on green.

michigan 1962 license plate

There was one other college honoring with a statewide color scheme, and it may seem the most random of choices. The 1970 issue was a gold and white plate that was done to honor Oakland University which had just gained independence from the University of Michigan system.

michigan 1970 license plate

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