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Michigan Drivers Get More Time To Renew Licenses, Vehicle Registrations

Scene at Michigan Department of state Branch Office, woman wearing a mask is behind a desk looking at a computer, while man with back facing the camera looks down at the desk
Michigan Department of State
The Michigan Department of State and Department of Corrections partnered on the program.

Many Michigan drivers now have more time before their licenses expire.

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed bills this week to extend expiration dates by 120 days for driver’s licenses, personal IDs and vehicle registrations that would have expired between March 31 and Aug. 1 of this year.

The state will waive late fees or refund fees already charged for documents set to expire during that time frame, according to a news release from Whitmer’s office.

Republican lawmakers have criticized Michigan’s Democratic Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson because of delays during the pandemic.

Appointment wait times lasting months have put Michiganders “behind the eight ball,” said state Sen. Curt VanderWall, R-Ludington, who introduced the bills.

“It's not their fault for not being able to get their license by the time of their birthday,” VanderWall said. “We should not as a state, or secretary of state, be charging them a late fee.”

The new laws prohibit Michigan from charging late fees for license renewal until the secretary of state makes same-day, in-person service available to walk-ins.

The Michigan SOS began requiring appointments for in-person service amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Faced with customer complaints, Benson hired greeters this summer to serve people who show up at offices without an appointment. But there’s no guarantee that walk-ins will be served that day — some people may be scheduled for a later date when no same-day slots are available.

“The pandemic was tough on all of us, and these bills put Michigan drivers first by giving Michiganders the flexibility,” Whitmer said of the extensions in a statement. “It is crucial that we continue to offer services at our Secretary of State that fit the needs of all residents.”

Benson said she’s “glad to be entering a new era of services at our offices that are more efficient and convenient than ever before.” 

Sarah Lehr is a state government reporter for Wisconsin Public Radio.
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