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People pushing back against appointment-only structure at Michigan Secretary of State branches

Posted at 7:20 AM, May 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-14 07:20:18-04

OAKLAND COUNTY, Mich. — The days of walking into a Michigan Secretary of State branch are gone. However, the announcement branches will move to an appointment-only system is getting some push back, including from the former secretary of state.

“What we are telling the secretary of state in the budget is she must open the doors on the secretary of state office not just for an appointment,” Republican State Sen. Ruth Johnson of Michigan’s 14th District said.

Johnson served as Secretary of State for eight years before current Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson took was elected. She and other senators voted to approve a budget this week that would require branch offices to open for walk-ins.

During the pandemic, in-person walk-ins shut down and switched to online appointments only. A few weeks ago, Benson announced this change will remain permanent beyond the pandemic.

7 Action News Reporter Ali Hoxie put the system to the test. When booking an online appointment for a visit to a Secretary of State branch, the website states to visit at 8:00 a.m. and noon to schedule an appointment for the next day.

“Half of our appointments, and we continue to expand appointments and their availability, but half are reserved for those next-day slots,” Benson told 7 Action News.

We tried to book an appointment at 8 a.m. at the Livonia, West Bloomfield and Southfield branches. All three branches popped up a web page stating it could not be loaded due to high volume. Around five minutes later, all the next-day and same-day appointments were booked. All three branches have appointments booked out until August.

The response from the Secretary’s of States Office was to try again at noon or try again the next day. Others did have more luck getting an appointment.

“I’ve heard it’s hard to get appointments, so I just followed directions from other people that told me to get on at 8 o'clock first thing in the morning and look for appointments and it is really easy to get a next day or same-day appointment,” said Alex Easter, who recently went to the Southfield SOS branch.

The Secretary of State’s Office is working to increase appointments by 10%, with 35,000 appointments in the coming weeks. They state they are also trying to catch up on a backlog of appointments from the pandemic.

“I have been waiting for a couple months, I got kicked out one time had to reapply it canceled it on its own, it’s not a good look,” said Blak Jordan who also paid the Southfield SOS branch a visit.

“People can’t transfer a title or buy or sell a car, they are driving on expired licenses and they can’t get in to do their renewals, it can cause people to get a ticket and it can issues with your auto insurance if you’re in an accident,” said Senator Johnson.

Benson tells 7 Action News she would like the money to be used elsewhere, like expanding mobile office that would come to you or doing virtual appointments.

“We have been very clear with the legislature about the residence want which is more funding for branch office service that we can expand appoints and we can expand other ways for people to get their services done with the state,” Benson said

The ultimate goal is making sure people go to branch offices less often. That includes the creation of kiosks at grocery stores to renew tabs and more online services.

Come July 1, a new law goes into effect changing how often you have to get your license picture renewed to 12 years hoping that too will free up appointments in the future.

If you do keep having issues booking an appointment online, or do not feel comfortable using online service, you can call 888-SOS-MICH (767-6424) to speak to a customer service representative.