The latest success stories involving local governments implementing new technology often begin with 2020, a year marked by officials’ ongoing efforts to keep both citizens and staff safe, while working to minimize disruptions to everyday operations. Although the pandemic may have been the catalyst that drove many communities to speed up digitization efforts, more and more continue to acknowledge the importance of advancing technology for businesses, residents, and agencies.
GovOS Solution: Remote Marriage Licenses
Launched: August 2021
Population: Approx. 134,300
In Calhoun County, MI, Clerk & Register of Deeds, Kimberly Hinkley, recognized early on the vital role technology plays in the modern local government experience, and was determined to help set the county on a path towards embracing the latest solutions to help automate and streamline processes. Here, Kimberly shares her experience bringing the county’s marriage licensing process online.
What was the “Aha Moment” for your marriage licensing project?
Our office is a combined clerk and registrar’s office. I have six staff members who are all cross trained to process marriage licenses, land records, certified copies of birth/death certificates, concealed pistol licenses, DBAs, etc. One marriage license used to take us about 45-60 minutes to process. That’s a long time for one clerk to be tied up with a single task.
On top of that, when the pandemic hit, we had to stop processing new marriage licenses when our offices closed. We had no clarity on how long that would last, or what would come next with regard to pandemic mandates, and so it really hit hard how much we needed to digitize our processes in order to accommodate citizen needs online, even more than before. That realization really catapulted things into motion.
How has the process changed?
Before we launched the GovOS Remote Marriage Application, couples had to visit us in person, present their state ID, and fill out a paper affidavit. For most couples, this meant spending at least 45 minutes in our office to complete the paperwork. Mistakes were common on the written forms so couples would sometimes go through 3-4 copies of the paper application. People kept asking, “Why can’t I do this online?”
Now, with the online application, couples can submit their information and pay the application fee online. Once completed, applications are sent to our queue where staff reviews each one and makes note of anything else we may need. Since state law doesn’t allow the use of video technology at this time, we still need the couple to come into the office for the final step of the process. There’s a 3-day waiting period in Michigan after which time the couple can come in, present their ID and birth certificate, and complete the process.
What are some of the benefits you’ve seen so far?
In addition to the convenience for our citizens mentioned above, the time savings for our staff has just been tremendous. Our processing time per application has decreased from 45 minutes to 20 minutes, and we’re working on streamlining even further to get it down to 15 minutes. With the online form, the details are much easier to read so staff no longer has to decipher hard-to-read or illegible handwriting on paper applications. There’s also the cost savings of not having to print paper applications.
The response from our citizens has been palpable as a lot of people embraced this new system right away. We went live in August and have already received 75 applications!
Were you able to use ARPA funds for this project?
Yes! The County Board of Commissioners has been very supportive of advancing tech in our offices. They understand the need for this type of technology and when it came time to distribute ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds, they looked at it as a necessary expenditure.
Any advice or words of wisdom for communities considering a similar move?
I can’t recommend GovOS enough. It’s a definite benefit to your staff and their time, and you really can’t go wrong by allowing couples to complete this step of the process in the privacy of their own home. People don’t have to make multiple trips to the clerk’s office if they forget necessary details or documentation. For staff, having the information we need from them ahead of time is very beneficial. As far as implementation, the GovOS team has been just wonderful and so helpful—everyone’s really great to work with.
What’s next for the county?
I think the pandemic has made everyone take a step back and say, “How can we do things better without having to be in person?” So, our next big initiative will be bringing the process of applying for certified copies online. We’re getting very close to kicking this project off!
And, hopefully one day the State of Michigan will allow us to do more of the marriage process via online video service and we can streamline our processes even further. But I’m so proud of what our team has been able to do already to enhance the lives of Calhoun County citizens, and I’m excited to see where we can go next.