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Michigan secretary of state visits Midland branch office, urges more funding for department

Brett Dahlberg
Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson takes questions from reporters at the Midland secretary of state branch office on Tuesday

Michigan Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson has been visiting branch offices around Michigan. There didn’t appear to be much demand for services at the Midland branch office when she arrived, but Benson said that’s a sign of progress.

It’s rare now to see the long lines that were a staple of visits to branch offices in the past, Benson said. Her department has started offering more services online and has streamlined the process of showing up in person.

Benson says the changes make life easier for secretary of state staff, too.

“In the past years, under the previous model, our staff would have to work sometimes three or four hours beyond the end of a shift, simply to handle the work that was before them,” she said. “Now, everyone’s getting out on time. They’re able to see their families. They’re able to pick their kids up from school or childcare.”

Benson said wait times are shorter, and staff are happier -- although employees at the Midland branch were not allowed to speak to reporters on the record.

The Michigan secretary of state said part of the reason for the empty lobby could be that the seasonal lull at these offices during the fall and winter. Benson said her department needs more funding to keep improving the experience at branches in the spring and summer.

“My hope is that, as residents take advantage of these options, that they’ll join with us in calling on our legislative leaders to continue to better fund our offices and to help us expand these services even more,” Benson said.

For people who still need in-person appointments Benson said wants to use mobile offices to make those more accessible. She said one recently started up near Detroit.

“I’ve asked the legislature to fund other mobile offices, particularly for rural areas, so that we can go around the Upper Peninsula or Northern Michigan with a mobile office and directly deliver services to our citizens where they are,” said Benson.

Michigan’s Secretary of State is up for election next year. Benson is a Democrat. At least two Republicans have said they will challenge her for the office.

Brett joined WCMU in February, 2021, as a general assignment reporter. He was previously the health reporter at WXXI Public Broadcasting in Rochester, N.Y., and has filed stories for National Public Radio, IEEE Spectrum, The Village Voice and other outlets.