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Secretary of State announces plan to eliminate appointment backlog at branches

More staff and additional overtime are expected to create 500,000 appointments by the end of September
 (Michigan Secretary of State Photo)
(Michigan Secretary of State Photo) (WLUC)
Updated: Jun. 1, 2021 at 4:01 PM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WJRT) - Two Democrat lawmakers introduced bills Tuesday to help Michigan Secretary of State branch offices work through a backlog of appointments.

The $25 million plan from Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson involves increasing the number of available appointments at 210 branch offices across Michigan by hiring new staff and allowing additional overtime pay. She hopes to create 500,000 available appointments by Sept. 30.

Benson announced in April that walk-in visitors to Secretary of State branch officers would need an appointment indefinitely. She started the appointment program about a year ago when offices reopened from a COVID-19 shutdown.

However, residents have reported a shortage of appointments available, with some branches booked into August.

“The path forward is clear: increase the number of appointments available so that they are abundant and easy to schedule and reduce the need for residents to visit our offices at all,” said Benson.

Democrat State Reps. Julie Brixie of Meridian Township and Stephanie Young of Detroit introduced bills on Tuesday to allow Benson to hire additional staff and approve additional overtime pay for branch offices.

“This would eliminate the backlog and free up advance and next-day appointments to be available on demand, getting us closer to a point where the supply of in-person transactions our offices can provide meets the needs of our residents,” Benson said.

Brixie blamed the backlog of appointments on Republicans, who control the Michigan Legislature. She claims Republicans required the Secretary of State to process a year’s worth of transactions in a short time when they ended a series of extended deadlines on March 31.

“They knew this wasn’t remotely feasible because the Department of State’s capacity has been cut by nearly half in recent decades,” Brixie said. “Our bills would use federal COVID funds to fix this problem by giving Secretary Benson the resources she needs to expand branch hours and clear the current backlog of transactions.”

Benson says the number of branch offices has been reduced by 46% and staffing is down 40% over the past few decades. During that time, Michigan’s population increased by 10% and the number of vehicles on the state’s roadways increased by 25%.

The Secretary of State’s Office has rolled out new online and remote technology over the past few years to reduce the number of branch office visits. Those include expansions to the online transactions portal and the introduction of self-service kiosks in nearly 150 grocery stores statewide.

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