GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson gave testimony Thursday to the Michigan House Oversight Committee on the status of SOS appointment wait times.
Once you get to the SOS office, you won't be there waiting as long as you used to. Benson says wait times actually in the building are about half what they were a few years ago.
But since COVID started, you need an appointment. That's where people say they're having trouble.
Benson is asking the state legislature for their help in changing laws that require in-person SOS visits for things like title transfers, which have gone up in the last year because more people have bought used cars.
“I would like to see an option to not be able to go into the branch office to transfer a title," House Rep. Pat Outman said.
"Yeah, I’d love to too. We would love you to change the law, so we can make that an option," Benson replied.
"I’d love to continue that conversation,” Outman said.
Benson says right now there are just simply too many people who need to go to the Secretary of State and not enough staff. Instead of hiring more people, she wants to expand service options for tasks people can do online or by mail or kiosk that they would normally need to be done at the office.
Appointments would still be available in person, so people wouldn't have to go online if they didn't want to. Appointments can also be made by phone at 888-SOS-MICH.
Benson cited data collected by her office that says since adding online, kiosk, and mail-in options for certain tasks, like renewing tabs, the numbers show Michiganders prefer those options as opposed to having to go to the SOS office.
One of her ideas is for people to take their own driver's license photos, similarly to how passport photos are taken, to eliminate that need for scheduling an appointment for your ID picture.
Representatives on the House Oversight Committee expressed their want for walk-in availability to be reinstated. Benson stated that that was part of what contributed to long wait times at the office. She mentioned employees prefer appointment-based scheduling, because families have a consistent time when their shift ends, as opposed to having to stay until every person in line is helped.
She also expressed the want to expand next-day appointment availability.
Half of all appointments are available for advanced scheduling. The other half are released at 8 a.m. and noon each day for the following day to add flexibility for people who want to get in last minute.
Benson says at their current pace given COVID restrictions and the backlog because of COVID closures and extensions, it will take six months to get caught back up if nothing changes.