LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson testified before the state House of Representatives Oversight Committee Thursday, defending her decision to move all branches to an appointment-only system.
There have been complaints that the system takes months to get an appointment. During her testimony, Benson blamed that on a backlog tied to renewal extensions granted in the midst of the pandemic.
She laid out a few key data points that she says show the need for a more efficient system. Over the last several years, she said, office staff has reduced by 40% while office capacity has been reduced by 46%. At the same time, the population in Michigan grew by 10% and the number of new vehicles grew by 22%.
She says the appointment-only system actually allows branches to serve 10% more people each month and pointed out that next-day appointments are released each day. The Secretary of State’s Office has also moved a number of services online or to self-serve kiosks, or made transactions possible by mail.
Benson also told lawmakers that even though there have been anecdotal complaints, there has also been a lot of praise and that the average positive rating of offices has about doubled.
=Watch a replay of the hearing below.=
She said by switching to appointments, the office is able to give people predictability so they know they can be in and out of the SoS office in 20 minutes.
Lawmakers questioned whether the appointment-only system was the right way to go to deal with capacity problems.
“One of the things you’ve eliminated is weeknight and weekend office availability. For a normal person who works 8-5, they can’t make it work to go during the day. There used to be an option, I think it was Wednesday nights or Saturday mornings. Those are all gone. Wouldn’t those actually fix the capacity problems?” questioned state Rep. Steven Johnson, R-Wayland, who chairs the committee.
Benson responded by saying she didn’t know if that would fix the problems but added that it’s something her office is considering bringing back in some form.
“I have visited offices when they were open on Saturdays and seen similar deficiencies that I talked about earlier,” Benson said. “So we want to ensure, as we do move in that direction to increase convenience of our options, that we provide enough support to our staff to be able to provide good service during those hours.”
To get a next-day appointment, go to the online booking page at 8 a.m. or noon. If you need help booking an appointment, call 888-SOS-Mich.