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Markkanen calls on SOS to allow walk-in customers

State Representative Greg Markkanen issued a release Thursday morning requesting Secretary of State branches reopen to walk-in customers. The department has moved many services online, including registration and license renewals. It has also moved to open up self-service kiosks to allow residents to complete these same tasks if they have unreliable internet, as is the case for parts of the Western Upper Peninsula.

Markkanen notes that the self-service locations are almost exclusively downstate. “Out of the 146 self-service stations, only five are found in Northern Michigan and none of these are found in northeast Michigan or in the Upper Peninsula.”

The appointment system has significant delays except for the most flexible of customers. Next-day openings are posted in the morning at 8:00 and then again around noon. Otherwise, the Houghton location on Razorback Drive shows lengthy waits for a time. If you just moved to the state and need to apply for a driver’s license, tabs, and need to transfer the title of your vehicle then you are looking at June 7th as the earliest possible slot. For those who need to complete only one transaction, the branch is more readily available.

A screenshot from the Secretary Of State website for the Houghton location taken on Thursday morning

The full release is below.

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State Rep. Greg Markkanen today called for Secretary of State branches to re-open walk-in services, underscoring convenience and numerous documented issues with the state’s new method for assisting customers.

Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson recently announced branches would transition away from walk-in service and replace it with a beefed up online appointment system for people to book times to come in. That system has been plagued by slowness and appointments booked out for weeks in advance at some locations – leaving people throughout the state worried they will see key documents such as registration or identification expire through no fault of their own.

“As the state begins to re-emerge from COVID-19, Secretary of State offices continue to operate beneath their potential by limiting services,” said Markkanen, of Hancock. “I have heard several concerning stories of people who just want to get in to talk to someone face to face and they aren’t able to do that. Some have reached out to their state legislators just to try and book appointments. It has brought up memories of the mess we saw with the state unemployment system when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer shut down large portions of Michigan’s economy and put people out of work. It’s simply poor customer service for taxpayers.”

Markkanen pointed out that while the Secretary of State has a number of self-service locations located at branches and businesses throughout the state, very few are in northern Michigan. Out of the 146 self-service stations, only five are found in Northern Michigan and none of these are found in northeast Michigan or in the Upper Peninsula. Many people across the western U.P. also do not have reliable internet or cell phone services to properly handle an appointment system, the second-term legislator said.

“Walking into a branch while they’re out running errands is the only option for some people – and that has been taken away,” Markkanen said.

In response to complaints, the Secretary of State’s office has announced they are working to increase appointments by 10 percent, but also still trying to dig out from a backlog of appointments from the past several months.

“It’s completely fine to want to have an appointment option as a feature, but taking away walk-in services is not making branches as accessible as they could be,” Markkanen said. “People are having to drive on expired licenses or can’t transfer a title or sell a car because of this policy change. It’s wrong and needs to be rectified.”

Markkanen welcomes people in the U.P. to share their experiences with the Secretary of State and its new system via a new website, allowing voices to be heard as the Legislature examines critical services provided to residents through the state.

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