DETROIT (WOOD/WLNS) — Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced Wednesday that her office’s branches around the state will soon add more hours amid criticism that the new appointment only-model is making it too difficult to get in.
Benson has blamed a backlog in demand caused by expiration extensions granted in the midst of the pandemic that then all came due at once. Still, she had announced last month that she would add more appointment slots through the end of September.
During a Wednesday press conference, she announced two methods to serve more people, both in person and online:
Starting July 19 and running through Sept. 30, all offices will stay open until 6 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays, and open at 8 a.m. on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. That’s an extension of the current 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday hours that Benson says will allow her office to help 120,000 more people. You can schedule your appointment online, by phone or in person. The appointments within the extra hours for the coming week will be released each Wednesday after 2 p.m.
Because of a technology upgrade, most driver’s licenses and state identification cards that expire on or after July 1 can now be renewed without having to go to a branch office: You can do it online or through a self-service station now that in-person visits for new photos are only required every 12 years instead of every eight. People who got a letter saying they need to renew in person are asked to try renewing online or at a self-service station first because those mailers sent before July didn’t indicate the new rules.
“As pandemic restrictions continue to be lifted, our office capacity will continue to increase,” Benson promised, reading from prepared remarks. “We’re still in the early days of post-pandemic operations, and we’ve got a strong plan here in place to provide an abundance of in-person opportunities for residents in the coming months. It’s going to both help us work through the transaction backlog created by the Legislature (which set extensions to expire at once) and to improve upon our operating model that provides convenient, efficient, equitable service for Michigan residents.”
Benson testified last month before the state House of Representatives Oversight Committee, defending her decision to move all branches to an appointment-only system. There have been complaints that those appointments are scheduled out for months.
Benson says the appointment-only system actually allows branches to serve 10% more people each month. She also says that under the appointment system, people are generally in and out of the office in 20 minutes.
Options for a limited number of next-day appointments are also released on the online booking page twice a day at at 8 a.m. and noon.
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.