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LaSata says Benson must reopen secretary of state offices

LANSING, Mich. — Southwest Michigan residents are being forced to wait months for appointments at secretary of state offices, an inexplicable policy Sen. Kim LaSata said Wednesday must end.

“Reality demands that Secretary of State Benson immediately reopen local offices to walk-in customers,” said LaSata, R-Coloma. “Michigan is reopening from the pandemic, and residents are getting back to their normal lives — it’s time that state government get back to work too.”

Last week, as part of the fiscal year 2022 state budget approved by the Senate, the SOS would be required to open branch offices that have been closed to walk-in customers over the past year. Prior to the Senate action, Benson announced a plan to continue only serving residents with an appointment even after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

In neighboring Indiana, people are currently able to walk in to the state’s secretary of state branch offices for service.

LaSata said the prolonged wait times people are experiencing here under Benson’s policy is causing more than headaches.

One constituent, an active-duty Marine home on leave from deployment, needed to renew their driver’s license and transfer a vehicle title, but had little time to do so because of military orders and could not get an appointment scheduled.

Another constituent contacted LaSata about an expired driver’s license, because an appointment to renew had been rescheduled by the SOS multiple times over the past year and the person is unable to get in until August. Similarly, an elderly constituent of LaSata’s needs a new photo for their driver’s license, which cannot be renewed online, yet the person can’t get an appointment until late August, after the license expires.

“There’s no reason why Southwest Michigan residents shouldn’t be able to walk in to their local SOS office on their way to and from work or while out running errands,” LaSata said. “Benson’s policy is creating more than headaches — it’s literally disrupting people’s lives. I have heard from numerous constituents who have been forced to drive on expired licenses, can’t renew plate tabs or transfer vehicle titles because of her failing scheme. As a customer service organization, the SOS must get back to putting the people first.”