Michigan secretary of state adds 350K appointments, ramps up operations

SOS Jocelyn Benson aims to make operations more efficient

Michigan’s secretary of state offices are ramping up operations to help serve more residents over the next several months, according to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

LANSING, Mich. – Michigan’s secretary of state offices are ramping up operations to help serve more residents over the next several months, according to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson.

On Tuesday, Benson announced that branches across the state will be adding 350,000 additional appointment slots between now and September in an effort to serve more Michiganders.

Half of the new appointments are already available, and appointments from the other 175,000 will be added to the system each week as next-day appointments, officials said. Appointments can be made online, through the call center (888-SOS-MICH) or in person at a secretary of state branch.

Michigan's secretary of state offices are adding 350,000 additional appointments through September in an effort to serve more residents. (Michigan Secretary of State)

“We were able to do this after discussions with our frontline workers who, concerned about the chatter here in Lansing to revert back to a broken ‘take a number and wait’ system, suggested ways they could work harder and faster to be able to handle more transactions efficiently and quickly,” Benson said. “It’s an extraordinary testament not just to their dedication to the department but their recognition that having residents schedule their visits ahead of time is a vastly superior way of doing business.”

Benson says after testing ramped up operations at several branches, the department decided it could cut transaction times from 20 minutes to 10 minutes in order to maximize efficiency and service more people.

Also starting in June, Michigan residents who need a handicap placard will be prioritized at secretary of state offices. Officials say those individuals can visit a branch in person for walk-in service, and will be serviced as quickly as possible.

Because there is “value in being able to walk up to a branch and talk to a person,” Benson says that beginning in July, the branches will be adding “greeters” who will assist individuals as they walk up to the office, and help them schedule an appointment -- or be seen right away, when possible. Half of the branches will have full-time greeters to assist with scheduling and questions. Staff at the other, less busy branches will serve as a greeter when they are able.

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced updates to branch operations on June 8, 2021. (Michigan Secretary of State)

Benson said Tuesday that though the SOS has not been approved for the requested $25 million from the Republican-led Michigan Legislature, the office is prioritizing making operations more efficient -- particularly as they address a backlog caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

If approved, officials say the funding would allow offices to hire more staff, expand appointments by 500,000, extend branch hours and address the backlog caused by a 13-month grace period for driver’s license and ID renewals amid the pandemic.

“If that $25 million comes through, we will have an abundance of appointments available for our citizens to work with our office in convenient ways,” Benson said Tuesday.

“I have other changes in the works,” Benson said. “A lot of those can be implemented more efficiently if the Legislature invests in our infrastructure.”

More: Benson seeks $25M to address backlog at SOS branch offices

Starting in July, license photo renewals in Michigan will only be required every 12 years instead of every eight years.

“It’s our job... to implement these solutions to deliver the additional customer services the residents of Michigan need coming out of COVID,” Benson said last week.

Tuesday’s announcement comes just over a month after Benson announced that the state’s secretary of state offices will permanently operate by appointment only -- a change originally instituted at the beginning of the pandemic.

Benson said in April that the process of walking into an office branch and waiting in line was an “antiquated, inefficient, take-a-number system that nobody liked.” Now, more than 60% of transactions carried out with the secretary of state are done online, by mail or at self-service stations.

“We’re going to listen to the people on this. It’s clear that do not want us to go backwards to the old ways of doing things, where on any given day you could spend hours waiting for a basic transaction in any given branch office,” Benson said.

Click here to visit the Michigan Secretary of State’s website.

Related: AP Interview: Michigan official warns of democracy threats

About the Authors:

Cassidy Johncox is a senior digital news editor covering stories across the spectrum, with a special focus on politics and community issues.

Hank Winchester is Local 4's Consumer Investigative Reporter and the head of WDIV's "Help Me Hank" Consumer Unit. He works to solve consumer complaints, reveal important recalls and track down thieves who have ripped off metro Detroiters.