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Republicans pushing Secretary of State to reopen branch offices for walk-ins

Budget bills that passed the House and Senate require offices to accept walk-in visits with no appointments
 (Michigan Secretary of State Photo)
(Michigan Secretary of State Photo) (WLUC)
Updated: May. 11, 2021 at 2:39 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Republicans are pushing Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson to reopen branch offices for walk-in visits without appointments.

Benson announced in April that she plans to make the appointment-only plan permanent for all Secretary of State offices. The change started last summer during the coronavirus pandemic, but Benson said it will continue indefinitely.

A budget plan that passed the Michigan Senate on Tuesday requires the branch offices to reopen and the Michigan House approved similar legislation earlier.

Republican State Sen. Ruth Johnson of Holly, who served as secretary of state for eight years before Benson, said residents are waiting three or more months to get an appointment for required services at branch offices in many cases. She pointed out one branch office in Detroit showed a five-month wait for an appointment Tuesday.

“It’s causing so many issues for people,” Johnson said. “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.”

She also pointed out that some people lack internet access or know how to navigate the secretary of state appointment system to schedule a visit.

“You need options for people,” Johnson said. “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.”

She launched Michigan’s ExpressSOS service online during her eight years as secretary of state to provide an alternative for visiting a branch office in person. But residents still must go to a branch office for a new driver’s license, renewing their license with an eye exam and obtaining a new photo ID.

Title transfers and testing for some professional licenses also require an in-person office visit.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer would have to sign the budget bills into law for the walk-in visit requirement to take effect.

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