Michigan’s Secretary of State (SOS) is best known for issuing driver’s licenses and license plates.
But it provides many other services to residents and businesses. Those roles were explained to members of the Schoolcraft Ladies Library at the group’s February meeting, where they played host to Barb VanderVeen, a representative from Secretary of State Ruth Johnson’s office. They found out there were many services virtually unknown to residents.
Besides the drivers’ licenses and vehicle registration, Johnson’s department is responsible for car and truck titles, insurance fraud, voter registration, and elections. VanderVeen, who served in the state House of Representatives with Johnson in the 90s, was appointed five years ago to represent the SOS on the entire west side of Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.
She cited the need for new election equipment as a high priority. Equipment now in use by county clerks is 10 years old. Software is outdated. They are concerned about discrepancies yet do not have the money to replace the equipment. Leasing has become an option, VanderVeen said.
When Johnson came into office in 2010, she found many people still on the election rolls who had died. The agency doubled down on ridding the files by hiring interns to go carefully through the files comparing death notices with other states and the Social Security office. New services include the ability to swipe a voter’s driver’s license at the polling place and immediately determine if an absentee ballot was issued and returned. Johnson is seeking legislation that would not require a reason for requesting an absentee ballot, because she believes this would make for shorter lines on election day. She is also looking at online registration and voting online in the future.