SOS must reopen branches under Senate budget

LANSING, Mich. — Michigan secretary of state branch offices that have been closed to walk-in customers for over a year would be required to reopen under the budget passed by the state Senate on Tuesday.

Sen. Ruth Johnson, who previously served as secretary of state, praised the Senate move just a week after current Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced her plan to continue only serving residents with an appointment even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

“People are literally waiting three months or more for an appointment,” said Johnson, R-Holly. “It’s causing so many issues for people. They can’t transfer a title when they buy or sell a vehicle. People are driving on expired licenses. They can’t get in for certification exams they need to do their jobs, such as mechanics.”

Johnson also pointed out that it is not easy for everyone to make an appointment.

“Not everyone is tech savvy or has internet access,” Johnson said. “You need options for people. We had a case where someone went to a branch, the staff was there, there were no other customers in the building and they were turned away because they didn’t have an appointment. That is ridiculous and unacceptable.”

Many branch offices do not have any available appointments for months. As of noon on Tuesday, the West Grand Boulevard branch in Detroit showed the first available appointment for a driver’s license renewal as Oct. 29.

During her time as secretary of state, Johnson launched ExpressSOS.com as an online alternative to branch visits for many transactions, but some services still require an in-person visit such as getting a new driver’s license or state ID or renewing them when an eye exam or new photo is required. Other transactions, like transferring a title, generally require an in-person visit as well.

The House of Representatives’ budget for the secretary of state would also require branches to be open for customers without an appointment.

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