House bill seeks to stop online sales of secretary of state appointments

LANSING, MI – Selling your appointment to Secretary of State for profit would be prohibited under a bill introduced Tuesday by Michigan House Representative Ranjeev Puri, Township of D-Canton.

The legislation comes as strong demand for the secretary of state’s services has resulted in the sale of appointment slots amid a planning backlog due to the pandemic.

A search on Facebook for “SOS dates” will return several Michigan residents requesting meetings at area groups and markets, and some offering them for sale.

The office of Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson, which supported the legislation on Monday, said there was no reason for residents to buy appointments from other residents online because more and more appointments become regularly available.

Aneta Kiersnowski, spokesperson for Benson’s office, said on Monday that her department was making efforts to cancel the appointments that were sold.

Puri said the problem emerged after his office spent time during much of the pandemic helping schedule appointments for voters, he said.

“You have to applaud people’s ingenuity and entrepreneurship, but we shouldn’t take advantage of each other,” Puri said, adding that he had heard of nominations sold for up to $ 50.

The intention of the bill is not to criminalize individuals, Puri said, but to allow any platform such as Facebook to incur penalties for the resale of dates by a third party. Under the bill, Michigan’s attorney general would have the power to take action against platforms that allow dating sales, Puri said.

“What should be prohibited is the resale for profit of these appointments,” he said.

More Secretary of State appointments are available since the addition of 350,000 places earlier this month, achieved by shortening the time slots from 20 minutes to 10 minutes.

RelatedMichigan Secretary of State Adds 350,000 New Appointments Amid Criticism of Pandemic Backlog

While most services can be accessed without an office visit through the Secretary of State’s website, that hasn’t stopped residents from selling their time slots to people looking for immediate service.

“There are still bad actors trying to rip off residents by pretending to sell dates,” Kiersnowski said. “We seek and revoke these appointments before they materialize, and also support legislative efforts to hold these bad actors accountable.”

While most people book Secretary of State appointments for their own use, there are exceptions. People can schedule appointments for family members, who may not have the knowledge or access to register online. The transfer of appointments to family members will not be affected by the bill, Puri said.

The bill has been referred to the House Oversight Committee, which has been where the Secretary of State’s questions have been debated in recent months.

As Republicans continue to push for a return to walk-in services, Benson maintained that asking residents to schedule their appointments in advance is a more efficient and effective method of managing branches.

ALSO ON MLIVE:

Michigan Secretary of State Adds 350,000 New Appointments Amid Criticism of Pandemic Backlog

Benson doesn’t give up on demanding appointments at Michigan Secretary of State’s offices

SOS to respect appointments


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David A. Albanese

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