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As online DMV services plagued by no-shows, secretary of state launches changes

Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias announces changes for his “Skip-The-Line” program, an appointment-based system for driver services that he said Thursday was marred by no-shows.
Capitol News Illinois/Andrew Adams
Illinois Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias announces changes for his “Skip-The-Line” program, an appointment-based system for driver services that he said Thursday was marred by no-shows.

Secretary of State Alexi Giannoulias launched an online appointment system in September for Illinois drivers needing to come to a driver’s services facility, ostensibly to reduce wait times.

The “Skip-The-Line" program introduced upgrades to the secretary of state’s website as well as a shift in policy, requiring appointments to be made for more than 40 of the state’s highest-traffic driver's services locations.

Walk-in services are now only available in lower-traffic locations, at the downtown Chicago office and at four “Seniors Only” facilities in Bridgeview, Calumet Park, Evanston and Westchester.

But the system’s first few months have not gone as Giannoulias had planned.

“The amount of no-shows has been devastating,” he said Thursday.

Giannoulias, who has made modernization a key priority in his first year in office, said that since rolling out the online appointment system, there have been periods when people skipped “upwards of 40 percent” of appointments made.

“If that number is 20 percent, it’s devastating,” he added.

The issue was exacerbated by several factors, he said, including driving schools which booked multiple slots every day without necessarily needing them.

On Thursday, Giannoulias announced a suite of reforms to his office’s “Skip-The-Line” program, including text message reminders sent to those with an appointment. He said it has already helped decrease skipped appointments since it launched last week.

He also noted that his office is working with driving schools to allow them to offer driving tests to their students, similar to how driver’s education instructors in high schools can administer driving tests for their students.

In addition to the text message reminders, Giannoulias announced his office launched a new appointment portal on its website this week, established a phone line to help those with difficulty accessing online services, and expanded eligibility for online license renewals to include those aged 75 to 78 and people who had previously changed their address online.

Giannoulias also launched four “Road Testing Centers” for behind-the-wheel tests in Addison, Lockport, Naperville and Chicago last year as part of the program.

“I’m asking Illinoisans to start 2024 by making a New Year’s resolution: don’t come to the DMV,” Giannoulias said. “I’m serious. Don’t come unless you are 100 percent certain that you need to visit one of our facilities.”

In-person visits are unnecessary for several common services, including license plate stickers and many driver’s license renewals. Driver’s license renewals are available online for those with clean driving records and without a moving violation.

According to Giannoulias’ office, roughly 2.25 million Illinoisans will need to renew their license in 2024 and a little more than 1 million are eligible to renew online. Drivers eligible to renew online should receive a letter in the mail, although they can also check their eligibility on the secretary of state website at apps.ilsos.gov/dlexamcheck.

Capitol News Illinois is a nonprofit, nonpartisan news service covering state government. It is distributed to hundreds of newspapers, radio and TV stations statewide. It is funded primarily by the Illinois Press Foundation and the Robert R. McCormick Foundation, along with major contributions from the Illinois Broadcasters Foundation and Southern Illinois Editorial Association.

Andrew Adams joined Capitol News Illinois in February 2023 as a state government and data reporter.
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