By Rick Garcia
LANSING, MI -- Every Michigander at some point have made a trip or will make a visit to the Michigan Department of the Secretary of State (SOS) office whether to obtain a driver’s license or registering a vehicle. It can either be a daunting experience or a routine visit. In some cases, there are many other services and information that many do not know about the SOS offices.
On March 26th at the Letts Community Center, Secretary of State Ruth Johnson launched a statewide road show to help communities entitled "Things You May Not Know and May Not Know to Ask the Secretary of State”.
Linda Lee Tarver, Director of Community Affairs & Election Integrity Liaison with SOS initiated the program known as “SOS-101” to help give citizens an easy-to-understand overview of benefits in eight urban communities in Michigan: Lansing, Jackson, Flint, Grand Rapids, Detroit, Saginaw, Muskegon and Benton Harbor. The program kicked off in Lansing and will cover a community in each community running through October 2014.
The event featured a panel of field experts covering each areas from personal Identification and drivers licenses, voter registration, vehicle registration, SOS job opportunities and business vendor opportunities. The panel members in Lansing included: Yvonne Young, Senior Analyst, SOS; Sgt. Leith Curtis, Lansing Police Department; Dr. Jerome Reide, Regional Director of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP); Kyle Dymond, Michigan Department of Treasury; Rick Garcia, Historical Society of Michigan; Chris Swope, Lansing City Clerk; Rich Howard, Vice President of the Lansing Chamber of Commerce and Darrean Dunn, owner of a State Farm Insurance Company. The panel members may vary from city to city.
According to Tarver, laws, rules and procedures within the SOS can be complex. The SOS handles personal identification, driver licensing, vehicle titling and registration, automotive-related regulation, driver education and training, commercial driver licensing, elections, notary regulation, business relations and other consumer and public protection initiatives and programs. Government and community partners will offer helpful information to citizens in this outreach program.
Participants who attended the Lansing event included citizens, service providers, pastoral leaders and local SOS employees. According to Tarver, each community will bring different audiences and groups custom to the culture and demographics. Saginaw, for example, may have a focus on elderly Latinos or migrant families in the Grand Rapids area. Muskegon and Benton Harbor will have a larger focus on African American families. Additionally, SOS also offers bi-lingual assistance and other accommodation for those who are illiterate or language challenged.
The hour-long session is chalked with “Did You Know” facts many citizens may not realize the depth and scope of each benefits from the SOS. What is unknown to many is that there is no minimum age requirement to obtain a State ID. Many in the audience assumed the age of 16. According to Yvonne Young of the SOS, an infant can have an ID as long as the parent is present and underwrites for the child.
There are 131 offices across the state and within SOS there are state contracts for a lot of services that are offered. For example, people think that we use state employees for all that the state needs to have done but it is not so. They contract with security companies, cleaning companies and other services as well, like some electrical work.
Dr. Jerome Reide along with Chris Swope provided key elements on voter registration process and the importance of having your voter card in addition to a valid state identification or driver license. Both agreed a voter registration card validates your polling site or precinct and it is essential to cast their ballot in their assigned site.
As the program rolls into the next community, the aim is to have a better informed citizen who can easily navigate the system and more importantly, be proactive. For more information, log on to www.michigan.gov/sos.
This article was printed in the April 6 - April 19, 2014.