by Scott McClallen
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson said the 15-month backlog for processing transactions through her office should be cleared by Labor Day or the end of September.
Outside a Mason branch office, Benson touted her efforts to slash down part of the backlog after all 131 branch officers were shuttered to walk-in service in response to COVID-19 by opening 350,000 additional appointments by optimizing appointment times, extending hours, and offering more services online.
From July 19 to Sept 30, all offices will stay open until 6 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays and open at 8 a.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Previous office hours were 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Monday through Friday.
Benson said SOS employees and customers prefer the new options.
“Conducting transactions, whether they happen in person, online, or at one of our self-service stations or over the phone is fast, predictable, pleasant, and no one wants to go back to the old model that made residents step up and wait in line for hours,” Benson said.
In April, Benson attempted to end walk-up service but faced pushback from lawmakers. The groups reached an agreement on a bill that extended the expiration of state ID and driver’s licenses to Sept. 30.
Most driver’s licenses and state IDs expiring on or after July 1 can now be renewed without an office visit, thanks to a technology upgrade.
Just a few months ago, if Michiganders couldn’t snag a next-day appointment for a service that requires an in-person appointment, they had to wait up to three months, possibly risking hundred-dollar tickets. Some Michiganders taped paper signs to vehicle windows of their SOS date, hoping to dodge tickets. The delay spawned a black market for people buying and selling SOS appointments.
Benson contends the new system is better than before and welcomed critical lawmakers to visit branches to see for themselves, saying customers complete visits within 20 minutes.
“Every week we emerge further out of this pandemic that we were in, we will see increased efficiency, increased capacity, and increased happiness from those constituents,” Benson said.
– – –
Scott McClallen is a staff writer covering Michigan and Minnesota for The Center Square. A graduate of Hillsdale College, his work has appeared on Forbes.com and FEE.org. Previously, he worked as a financial analyst at Pepsi.
Photo “Jocelyn Benson” by Jocelyn Benson.