A trip to the secretary of state’s office is a less miserable experience than it once was, both candidates for the office agree. Jesse White has been secretary of state for 16 years, during which time lines have shrunk, mainly due to faster computers and the availability of on-line services that didn’t exist when White was first elected in 1998. And, he says, something else has changed in an office once known for surly or indifferent clerks.
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“We also put a lot of time and effort in teaching our employees the importance of being customer-friendly. No longer can you disrespect the customer,” he said. White, a Democrat, is up for re-election. His opponent, Republican Mike Webster, agrees the office is improved, but says it could be even better in terms of the days and hours that it’s open. “It’s not a convenient office, even though it’s gotten better,” said Webster, a lawyer and accountant who is president of an elementary school board in Hinsdale.
Also, White says about 60,000 illegal immigrants are now legally driving in Illinois under the Temporary Visitor Drivers License Program, with 60,000 more in the pipeline. This license category has existed for some time, and was intended for non-working legal residents – the spouse of someone here on a work visa, for example – but it was expanded last year to include undocumented immigrants, in order to encourage them to pass a driving test and carry insurance. White says police in Illinois who encounter drivers with these at traffic stops are familiar with them; he’s not sure what’s happening in other states.