Secretary of State Definition

Learn more about what the Secretary of State is in business.

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secretary of state definition

The definition of Secretary of State at the state level is the chief clerk for the government who’s responsible for important state records, including business documentation. 

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What is a Secretary of State?

Out of 50 states, 47 have a secretary of state. Alaska, Hawaii, and Utah do not have this position in their state governments. In Massachusetts, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, this person is called the Secretary of the Commonwealth but is essentially the same thing. This is an important administrative position. 

How is the Secretary of State chosen in each state?

In 35 states, the Secretary of State position is filled by voter election. In the other 12 states, the state legislature or governor appoints the Secretary of State. 

What does the Secretary of State do?

The exact duties of the Secretary of State vary by state, but the responsibilities of this position are generally administrative. The Secretary of State is important to you as a business owner because their office is responsible for the majority of business registration and maintenance activities. 

Secretary of State examples of duties:

These are just a few of the things that the Secretary of State may be responsible for. 

How is the Secretary of State involved in your business formation?

The office of the Secretary of State processes, files, and maintains records related to all formal business entities. A legal entity may include a limited liability company, corporation, or other business structures. Filings include initial formation documents, annual reports, amendments, and more. 

Many Secretary of State websites have resources for business owners explaining how to get started and linking to requirements. This is a great place to begin. If you are working on starting a business, consider making it easy on yourself with our Business Formation Service

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State vs. Federal Secretary of State

The Secretary of State’s definition is different at the state and federal levels. The Secretary of State for each individual state is generally only concerned with matters for that individual state.  

At the federal level, the Secretary of State meaning is very different, and this person has a much different role. The President of the United States appoints the federal Secretary of State. Consent from the Senate is necessary for this appointment. Duties include serving as the President’s foreign affairs adviser. This person works directly with the Foreign Service of the United States and the State Department to carry out approved foreign policies. 

Unlike the Secretary of State at the state level, you won’t need to deal with the federal Secretary of State when it comes to domestic business affairs. 


The Secretary of State is responsible for state-level business record keeping, duties relating to elections, and more. These responsibilities differ by state. 

We can help 

Some state filings are more difficult than others, but we are here to help. Make it easy to stay caught up with all of your business requirements with our Worry-Free Compliance Service and a number of other tools and resources specifically designed to make owning a business easier. 

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.

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