What Are the Powers and Duties of Secretaries of State?

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December 3, 2021
Al Vanderklipp

Though Secretaries of State are the chief election official in most states, the actual duties assigned to them in state constitutions and state electoral code vary widely. With these positions drawing hyper-partisan attention, its reasonable to assume that at some point a secretary of state may attempt to influence, or even subvert, an election.

However, such malfeasance may be difficult in practice. Many duties are the responsibility of local election officials, and in several states, the secretary of state must work with other state officials to (for example) write an election procedures manual or certify the results of an election, providing a natural check on their powers.

The following document is not intended to be a comprehensive overview of all duties of every secretary of state; rather, its purpose is to provide a snapshot of the actual responsibilities of the election chief in states where the position is attracting political attention.