In 47 states, the secretary of state is a top-level executive office with administrative responsibilities. However, the role and duties of the office vary from state to state.
Here are five things you may not know about the office of secretary of state:
- Three states—Alaska, Hawaii, and Utah—do not have a secretary of state. In Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, the office is referred to as “secretary of the commonwealth” but has the same role.
- As of March 2019, there are 24 Republican secretaries of state and 21 Democratic secretaries. North Dakota Secretary of State Al Jaeger was elected as an independent. Oregon’s office is currently vacant following the death of Dennis Richardson (R). Gov. Kate Brown (D) is tasked with appointing his successor, who must legally be a member of the Republican Party.
- The office is directly elected in 35 states and appointed in 12. The governor appoints the secretary of state in nine of those states. The state legislature appoints the secretary of state in the other three.
- No two states give the office the exact same responsibilities. The secretary of state is the chief elections officer in 37 states and is responsible for reviewing ballot measures in 23 states. Other common roles and duties include business registration, maintenance of official records, and certification of official documents.
- Three states are holding elections for the office this year. Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes (D) is prevented by term limits from seeking re-election, leaving her seat open. Mississippi Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann (R) is running for lieutenant governor rather than seeking re-election. Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin (R), who took office partway through an existing term in 2018, has not yet announced whether he will run for a full term this year.