Georgia Government 101: What does Georgia’s Secretary of State Do?

The office of United States Secretary of State grabbed headlines last week when Donald Trump fired secretary of state Rex Tillerson. Georgia residents don’t have to worry about the governor firing Georgia’s secretary of state, as it is an elected office with responsibilities widely different from its D.C. counterpart. Since this is a statewide office and you’ll be voting for its occupant soon, let’s take a quick look at what the office is.

What is the Role of the Secretary of State?: The office of Secretary of State is hard to put in a box. The position is most known for overseeing and monitoring Georgia’s elections and for handling registration, licensing and monitoring of local corporations, businesses, nonprofits and professionals. Got a real estate license? It came through the Secretary of State’s office. Starting a small business or non-profit? You’re going to need to go through the secretary of state’s office. However, the secretary of state’s office does a lot more that you probably didn’t know about. Here are just a few of the position’s responsibilities.

  • Overseeing and monitoring elections
  • Licensing, registration and fees for the state’s businesses, nonprofits and professionals
  • Record keeping: The secretary of state handles all of Georgia’s archives.
  • Runs the state Capitol Education Program and Capitol museum.
  • The secretary of state’s office is the keeper of all state symbols including the state seal and flag.
  • The secretary of state chairs the Claims Advisory Board. If you file a civil suit against Georgia, the Claims Advisory Board will hear your case.
  • Maintains the voter registration lists and makes sure the deceased aren’t on it.
  • The Georgia Commission for the Holocaust is also under the Secretary of State’s umbrella. The program provides Holocaust education programs for the public.

Origin of The Office: The Secretary of State has been with Georgia since the beginning of the United States. The first Georgia Secretary of State was John Milton in 1777.

How is the Secretary of State Chosen?: Unlike the United States Secretary of State, who is appointed, Georgia’s Secretary of State is elected by the people. The only exception is when there is a vacancy in the office, and then the secretary of state is appointed by the governor. Otherwise, it is a partisan elected office.

How long is the term?: 4 years; no term limits.

Qualifications for office: If you would like to be Georgia’s Secretary of State, you will need to be at least 25 years old, a citizen of the United States for at least 10 years and a legal resident of Georgia for at least four years.

Who is the current Secretary of State: Republican Brian Kemp is the current secretary of state.

How Influential is the Secretary of State: Being that the secretary of state sets some election policies, certifies the votes, handles the registration of all businesses and has a hand in deciding all civil suits against the state, this is a highly influential position. In fact, it is often a springboard for higher elected office. Karen Handel held the office before Jack Kemp, and she now serves in the U.S. Congress. Max Cleland also served as Secretary of State and later became a U.S. Senator.

Georgia State Seal” by faul is licensed under CC BY

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