Home Casino news Appointment-only SOS branches come with trade-offs, MI customers say

Appointment-only SOS branches come with trade-offs, MI customers say

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The Michigan Secretary of State Frandor branch in Lansing, pictured Friday, June 4, 2021. (Photo: Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal)

It didn’t take long for Donna Keenan to transfer the title of a car over to her daughter, a Michigan State University student. 

The appointment was quick and easy, although it did require the teenager to go a few weeks without wheels.

“She’s had no vehicle for five weeks,” Keenan said.

Like many people who filtered in and out of the branch Friday, Keenan, of Battle Creek, said it took weeks to get an appointment at the Secretary of State branch office in Lansing, but found the appointment to go fast once she did.

Secretary of State branches went appointment-only after the pandemic hit last year and will stay that way once the pandemic fades. Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson announced in April that walk-in appointments will not return.

That comes with trade-offs, Lansing customers said Friday outside the East Michigan Avenue branch. Many said they had to wait weeks or months for an appointment, but, once they had them, those appointments took only a matter of minutes.

“Everything went quick,” said Jenaisica Bates, of Lansing. “Not slow like it does when a lot of people are in there.” 

Bates, 17, visited the branch Friday to get an identification card. She said the transaction was easier than she expected, although she had to wait weeks to get in the door.

A backlog of branch appointments is driving the long wait times, Secretary of State spokesperson Tracy Wimmer said. 

When the pandemic hit Michigan and public spaces including branch offices closed, the legislature temporarily allowed people to use recently expired licenses, identification cards and registrations. That grace period ended March 31.

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The Michigan Secretary of State Frandor branch in Lansing, pictured Friday, June 4, 2021. (Photo: Matthew Dae Smith/Lansing State Journal)

“Essentially, it’s 13 months’ worth of transactions that people have been trying to get done in the last two months since the extension expired,” Wimmer said.

Matthew Folk, of East Lansing, is one of them. 

Folk, 21, couldn’t renew his license online because he needed to get his picture taken. He said it took three months to schedule an appointment, though the process was quick once he was able to get in the door.

Quick, but slightly more expensive than it would have been had he been able to get in right away. Folk said he was charged a late fee when he renewed his license Friday.

“It was $7,” he said as he left the Lansing branch. “I’ll bounce back.”

Brad Wolter, whose license also expired in March, said partaking in his pastime — drinking and reviewing craft beer — was the biggest challenge he faced with an expired license. He and his friends produce a twice-monthly podcast called Beer Room Brawl in which they imbibe and describe new brews. 

“I’ve been turned away several times because it’s expired, even though I’m clearly of age,” the 34-year-old said.

Unlike Folk, Wolter, of Lansing, said he wasn’t charged a late fee when he renewed his license Friday. It was the “quickest and nicest” Secretary of State experience he’s ever had.

“They didn’t even mention a late fee,” he said. 

The Secretary of State is required to collect late fees under Michigan law, Wimmer said. She said the office has been “in conversation with legislators to see some of those fees waived or provide reimbursement.”

The office collected fewer late fees in May 2021 than it did in May 2019, she said.

How the Secretary of State plans to address the backlog

When she announced branches would continue as appointment-only, Benson said she would increase the number of available appointments by 10%, or 35,000 per month. 

The office also increased capacity at its call center, where Michiganders can ask questions and sign up for branch appointments by phone instead of online, Wimmer said.

The office also is backing a bill introduced by Reps. Julie Brixie, D-Meridian Township, and Stephanie Young, D-Detroit, that aims to increase branch capacity by providing the office nearly $25 million to hire new employees and by funding overtime hours.

More: New bills provide $25M, 200 new employees to help Secretary of State appointment backlog

The Secretary of State’s office also has increased the transactions that can be performed online and at self-service kiosk stations. Michiganders don’t have to visit branches to renew their driver’s licenses or identification cards, for example.

Some tasks, like transferring vehicle titles or renewing licenses with updated photos, still must be done in person, Wimmer said, although that may someday change.

“We are very interested in the suggestion to make that not in-person,” Wimmer said. “That’s something we’re looking into, but obviously that’s not something we can do by ourselves.” 

Tips for getting an appointment

To get into a branch fast, try logging on to michigan.gov/sos at 8 a.m. or noon on Monday through Friday to make an appointment. The Secretary of State releases next-day appointments at those times. 

Michiganders also can reach the Secretary of State by phone by calling 1-888-SOS-MICH (1-888-767-6424) between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

For many transactions, Michiganders can visit a self-service station. The Secretary of State has 146 of them throughout Michigan. A map is available at miselfservicestation.com.

Michiganders can renew licenses and identifications, request replacement or temporary cards, add motorcycle endorsements and sign up as organ donors at self-service stations.

Contact Carol Thompson at ckthompson@lsj.com. Follow her on Twitter @thompsoncarolk.

Read or Share this story: https://www.lansingstatejournal.com/story/news/2021/06/07/michigan-secretary-state-branch-appointment-only/7542376002/



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