Heard on MichMash

Michigan’s Secretary of State Promised to Reduce Wait Times. That’s Not Happening.

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Image credit: Jake Neher/WDET

MichMash hosts Cheyna Roth and Jake Neher talk with Bridge Magazine’s Riley Begin, who says wait times are getting longer.

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WDET Digital
WDET Digital

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has promised to significantly reduce wait times at branch offices.

During her 2018 campaign, she promised that you wouldn’t have to wait longer than 30 minutes when you go in to get a new license plate, renew your drivers license, or utilize any of the other functions that our Secretary of State branches have to offer.

It’s eight months into Benson’s tenure as Secretary of State. So, how’s that effort going?

Riley Beggin of Bridge Magazine recently looked into this question and wrote about it in her piece, “Michigan’s Secretary of State promised 30-minute waits — lines are worse.”

As part of the weekly series MichMash, hosts Jake Neher and Cheyna Roth talk with Beggin about her reporting on the situation, as well as what you can do yourself to shorten the amount of time you spend at a branch.

Click on the player above to hear MichMash speak with Bridge Magazine’s Riley Beggin about Secretary of State branch wait times.

The short answer: Wait times are actually getting longer

Beggin found that wait times have actually increased since Benson was sworn in as secretary of state. 

In some of the state’s busiest offices, average wait times now exceed two hours,” she writes in her piece.

She notes that the problem has been long in the making.

Wait times have been increasing at branch offices for the last five years,” she explains to Neher and Roth. “And they grew by a smaller rate than they have in the past, but they still grew this year.”

However, Beggin says that doesn’t necessarily mean Benson’s efforts won’t eventually improve the situation.

I don’t think anybody expects a long problem to be solved within six months of someone taking office.”

So, how long will it be before we should expect wait times to go down?

Earlier this year, Benson told reporters it might be a couple of years before we can expect her campaign promise of 30-minute-or-less wait times to become reality.

When I spoke with her for this story, she didn’t have an exact estimate for when we might be able to see even shorter wait times, let alone 30-minute wait times,” says Beggin.

But she says Benson is emphasizing that the focus is on finding long-term solutions to the problem rather than short-term fixes.

Which means that you might not see a decrease in wait times soon, but the hope is that, in the future, by the time she is done as secretary of state, those long-term problems will be solved.”

In the meantime, there are things YOU can do to shorten your own wait times

Make an appointment — Almost all branch offices across Michigan now allow you to make an appointment ahead of time. People who make these appointments already see wait times around 30 minutes or less. But make the appointment far in advance! It could be a weeks-long wait to get one of those appointments, especially at one of the busiest branch offices in the state.

Check to make sure a branch visit is necessary — Many of the functions of Secretary of State branch offices can now be completed online or at a 24-hour kiosk. This includes renewing your tab and changing your address. Not only will this save you a trip to a branch office, but it will also help reduce wait times for the rest of us.

Click here for more information about your local branch, how to schedule an appointment, and the kinds of things you can do without having to go into a branch office.

Jake Neher, Producer, Detroit Today

Jake Neher is a producer and reporter for Detroit Today. He has formerly reported on the Michigan legislature.

Jake.Neher@wdet.org Follow @GJNeher

Cheyna Roth, Reporter

Cheyna has interned with Michigan Radio and freelanced for WKAR public radio in Lansing. She’s also done some online freelancing and worked on documentary films.

CRoth@mlive.com Follow @Cheyna_R


This post is a part of MichMash.

Each week, WDET's Jake Neher and Michigan Public Radio's Cheyna Roth un-jumble Michigan issues and talk about how statewide news stories affect you. 

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