Legislators discuss ways to cut lines at the Secretary of State’s office, but how?

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By JOE DANDRON
Capital News Service

LANSING — Long lines and distant Secretary of State offices could be a thing of the past, according to the Michigan Retailers Association.

The number of branch offices — now at 131 — could soon rise, with new ones popping up in unexpected places.

“Legislators have expressed interest in adding more locations at nontraditional entities like banks, credit unions and grocery stores,” the association says. 

Members of a Senate appropriations subcommittee reviewing the Secretary of State’s budget “expressed concerns with proposed increases for improved security measures at current branch offices. Instead, they felt security threats have increased because of longer wait times and solving the root problem of longer waiting periods will de-escalate situations at local offices,” the association website says.

Ninety-three mobile kiosks for simple transactions at Kroger and other stores across Michigan were already in place, 

But technological problems with those kiosks arose, according to the agency’s director of communications, Jake Rollow. 

Rollow said when Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson came into office in January 2019, one-third of the kiosks were broken and are slowly being replaced.

Now, the agency and Meijer are partnering to open 28 self-service stations for simple transactions, like renewing the tabs on your car, according to an announcement from the agency.

“Meijer stores are a favorite shopping spot for many Michiganders, and now many of them will also be a place where you can complete transactions, such as renewing your tabs,” Benson said. 

Meanwhile,  Rep. Matt Maddock, R-Milford, has proposed a package of legislation he calls the “cut-Secretary-of-State-lines-in-half bills.” 

He says the issue isn’t about creating kiosks that many motorists don’t even know about. 

“Last time I used a kiosk was in the SOS office, and when it was printed, I couldn’t use it,” Maddock said. “So I left.”

Maddock said his proposal would cut nearly “50% of the people” who go to an office by eliminating tabs for vehicles and other, in his opinion, unnecessary reasons to visit a regular branch office.

By cutting plate tabs and handling all registrations online, waits could be cut in half, he said. 

“I think we can solve this problem without creating more offices.”

Cosponsors include GOP Reps. Gregory Markkanen of Hancock, Luke Meerman of Coopersville and Jack O’Malley of Lake Ann.

Full-service offices are much farther from entering retail space at grocery stores and retailers, says Retailers Association chief executive officer Bill Hallan. 

Hallan said it would be hard for retailers to incorporate the space needed for agency offices into existing stores. 

“Retailers want to provide as much value as possible for the customer,” Hallan said. “That’s why it was important to have a beta (initial) test. Anytime you bring customers into your store, you want to make sure that they have a good experience.”