Measures to address COVID-19 backlogs at SOS branches included in bills sent to governor

LANSING, Mich. — Sen. Ruth Johnson’s legislation to double the number of times Michigan residents can renew their driver’s licenses online or by mail was inserted into bills heading to the governor.

“These reforms amended the same section of law as legislation I was working on to create the Address Confidentiality Program, so we incorporated the changes into that package, which is on its way to the governor to be signed,” said Johnson, who served as secretary of state from 2011 to 2019. “As in the original bills, the reforms will improve safety and convenience for Michigan residents by allowing them to renew their driver’s licenses and state ID cards twice before having to come into a branch office.

“This will also help struggling branch staff, who are doing their best to keep up with the backlog of transactions caused by temporary branch closures and new safety protocols put in place in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The changes made in Senate Bills 1111 and 1112 to allow Michigan residents to renew their driver’s licenses and state personal identification cards online or by mail for two four-year periods are now included in SBs 73 and 75.

Currently, residents can renew their driver’s license or state ID card online or by mail once for a four-year term but must renew them in person every eight years at a Secretary of State branch office to get a new photograph. This would be pushed to 12 years under the proposed bills, the maximum allowed under new federal REAL ID requirements.

SBs 73 and 75 are part of a seven-bill package to create an address confidentiality program in Michigan that would enable victims of domestic abuse, sexual assault, stalking or human trafficking to receive a unique identification number and a legal substitute address, such as a post office box, to use in place of their actual physical address for voting, driver’s licenses and other state interactions. The state would then keep their actual address confidential. SBs 70-76 were finalized by the Senate on Friday.