Heard on Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson

Secretary of State Benson Defends Controversial Changes at Branch Offices

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Image credit: Jake Neher/WDET

Benson says the GOP-led state Legislature is preventing progress for her office’s day-to-day functions.

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The Michigan Secretary of State office is implementing changes to operate more efficiently. Branches now only accept most clients by appointment only, more services can be done online, and appointment duration times are being reduced in order to add 350,000 appointment slots. 

We want to get to the point where we can have 45,000 transactions statewide every day … The problem is, right now, this backlog, and the cuts in funding.” —Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson 

These changes were met with opposition from Republicans. But Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson says modifications are necessary to support Michiganders. 


Listen: Jocelyn Benson on the recent changes to Secretary of State branch offices and services.


Guest

Jocelyn Benson is Michigan’s Secretary of State. She says a backlog of appointments during the pandemic, along with limited funding, made it necessary for her office to adjust its system of operation. “We’re trying to recognize that the past model of doing things … really wasn’t working. Staff who have worked at the offices for decades actually recommended these changes.” Benson says she hopes to make even more changes in order to be efficient and accessible statewide. 

Some of those changes would require approval from the Republican-led Legislature, which has taken an adversarial approach to Benson and her department since 2019. Benson says she would like lawmakers to allow Michiganders to update state ID photos without having to come in to a branch office.

If you can remotely take a photo and upload it online for a passport photo, you should be able to do it for a state ID,” she says.

With more funding from the Legislature for branches to operate on evenings and weekends, Benson says the offices would be able to significantly increase the number of open appointments. “We want to get to the point where we can have 45,000 transactions statewide every day,” she says. “The problem is, right now, this backlog, and the cuts in funding.”

There are many days that I wish we had the support and cooperation of the Legislature,” says Benson. ”Unfortunately the toxic environment in Lansing right now isn’t that.”

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Nora Rhein works with the production team on “Detroit Today with Stephen Henderson” on 101.9 WDET. She’s very proud to be a public radio nerd.


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