• The State Department Has $30 Million to Spend on Internet Freedom

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    We’ve all silently fumed after pulling a No. 76 ticket at our local secretary of state branch office, only to look up and see ticket No. 14 is being helped.

    But those days appear to be over after the official launch today of ExpressSOS.com, which aims to reduce lines at branch locations by offering many simple secretary of state services online.

    Michigan Secretary of State Ruth Johnson said those services include renewing license plate tabs and driver’s licenses online.

    “It’s like a citizen-centric solution,” said Johnson, who said 10 million people visit secretary of state offices each year. “We’re trying to work and do what’s best for the people of the state of Michigan.”

    ExpressSOS.com will be operated predominately by the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget, Johnson said.

    Johnson said her department collaborated with Gov. Rick Snyder, the technology, management and budget officials and others to launch the site, which began with a small appropriation by the Legislature in 2004 to explore putting the services online.

    The planners have built ExpressSOS around the assumption four in five Michigan residents have access to the Internet in some form and will be willing to use ExpressSOS.

    The people who are without Internet access, or those who prefer a more personal connection, will be able to visit their local branch office, Johnson said.

    One caveat for Internet users: Driver’s license and other state-issued identification photos need to be retaken every eight years in person, Johnson said.

    Johnson said the secretary of state has experienced a 30 percent reduction in staff in recent years, increasing wait times during office visits.

    She did not specify whether more workers could be axed because of fewer branch customers, saying: “Right now, the statutory requirement is we must have an office in every county. And I don’t see that changing.”

    When asked about Web security issues, she said, “It will be very safe and very secure.”

    “We call it the ‘online, no-wait secretary of state,’” Johnson said of ExpressSOS, “and it puts popular services at your fingertips. It’s better for everyone. It’s a win-win.”

    The department soon will launch a small advertising campaign on what Johnson called a shoestring budget to promote the new site.

    A complete list of services offered online can be found at ExpressSOS.com.

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