Secretary of State


In 1837 the office of Secretary of State was proposed to replace the Governor's Council and take over its administrative and record keeping functions. The Maryland Constitution was amended in 1838 to state: "the Governor nominates and with the advice and consent of the Senate appoints a Secretary of State, who shall hold office until a successor is appointed."  Should the governor's office become vacant "the Secretary of State shall be clothed, ad interim, with the executive powers of government." (Ch. 197, Acts of 1836; Ch. 84, Acts of 1837) The political atmosphere of the time brought about creation of the office and affected the first appointment.

The Secretary of State takes and subscribes the oath of office before the Governor. (Ch. 172, Acts of 1852)

Term: The term of office of the Secretary of State was changed in 1954 with a constitutional amendment. The Secretary of State is appointed by the Governor, by and with the consent of the Senate, and continues in office, unless sooner removed, until the end of the official term of the Governor making the appointment. (Ch. 42, Acts of 1954)

Assistant Secretary of State: In 1874 the Governor was authorized, in case of sickness or absence of the Secretary of State, to appoint temporarily an Assistant Secretary of State who was empowered to discharge all duties imposed by law. (Ch. 1) In 1965 the Governor was given the authority to appoint an Assistant Secretary of State as a permanent position, empowered to discharge all duties of the Secretary of State. (Ch. 234)

Division of State Documents: In 1974 the Division of State Documents was created in the office of Secretary of State to compile, edit, and supplement the Maryland agency rules and regulations as provided by the state documents law. The administrator of the Division is appointed by the Governor. The  primary statutory responsibility of the Division of State Documents is to compile, edit, publish, and distribute the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) and its temporary supplement, the Maryland Register. In addition, the Division provides the vendor community with contract information about state, county, and municipal bid solicitations and awards through its publication, the Maryland Contract Weekly. (Ch. 600, Acts of 1974)

For current General Provisions for the Secretary of State, see Michie's Annotated Code of the Public General Laws of Maryland:  State Government 1999 Replacment Volume (Charlottesville, VA:  Lexis Law Publishing, 1999), 193-206.


Great Seal: The Secretary of State maintains custody of the great seal of the state of Maryland. (Ch. 131, Acts of 1853)  In addition, the office uses its own seal to authenticate and certify copies of records. (Ch. 448, Acts of 1853)

Executive Orders: After the Governor issues an executive order, the original or a certified copy is filed with the Secretary of State who retains them until the term of the issuing governor has expired. The Secretary delivers a copy of each order to the Department of Legislative Reference for publication with the session laws of each year. (Ch. 68, Acts of 1973)

Notaries Public: From its origin the Secretary of State has maintained records of the appointment of notaries public by the Governor. Now the Secretary receives applications for notaries, accompanied by written approval of a State Senator. Upon approval by the Governor, the Secretary issues to each applicant a commission for a term of four years. If the notary is from outside Maryland, the Secretary is deemed the notary's agent upon whom may be served any summons or other process paper. (Ch. 31, Acts of 1997)  See Michie's Annotated Code of the Public General Laws of Maryland:  State Government 1999 Replacement Volume (Charlottesville, VA:  Lexis Law Publishing, 1999), 583-590.

Laws: The Secretary of State handles the chapter numbering for each bill passed by the General Assembly and signed by the Governor. The Secrtary receives all such bills and assigns chapter numbers. (Ch. 70, Acts of 1945)

Interstate Compacts: A 1972 law designated the Secretary of State as the official record keeper of all interstate compacts. (Ch. 468, Acts of 1972)

Maryland Manual: The Maryland Manual was first published in 1898, but not mandated until 1900. The Manual, published biennially, is a compilation describing state government and listing state and local officeholders. (Ch. 240, Acts of 1900)  It is now handled by the Maryland State Archives and includes an online version that is updated regularly, with the Secretary still involved in distribution of the paper copy.

Commission on the Capital City: The Governor is authorized to designate the Lieutenant Governor or Secretary of State to serve as a member of the Commission on the Capital City which studies ways to preserve and improve Annapolis as the state capital. (Ch. 202, Acts of 1965)

Other Administrative Duties: The Secretary of State handles many other responsibilities on behalf of the Governor: maintaining records of gubernatorial appointments and commissions, executions, commutations, pardons, paroles, extraditions, and requisitions (on extraditions and requisitions, see Art. 41 § 2-213 through § 2-217 of the Annotated Code of Maryland, vol. 3 1997 Replacement Volume). Most of these duties were assumed from the Governor's Council, the precursor of the office of Secretary of State.


Campaign Reports: A 1908 act required the treasurer or political agent of each candidate for a constitutional or state office and the treasurer of each political committee to file a certificate or letter of appointment with the Secretary of State. After the election these same officers filed campaign contribution and expenditure reports with the clerk of the circuit court of the jurisdiction where the candidate resided or where the committee had its headquarters and with the Secretary of State. (Ch. 122) The provisions for filing reports with the Secretary were repealed in 1945, and reinstated in 1963. (Ch. 934, Acts of 1945; Ch. 225, Acts of 1963) Two years later the law was changed slightly to require those candidates for statewide offices or representatives to Congress to file directly with the Secretary. (Ch. 744, Acts of 1965)  From the beginning the Secretary summarized and distributed the provisions of the election laws relating to campaign contributions and expenditures.  Upon its inception, the State Administrative Board of Election Laws gained the responsibility for regulating campaign finance, along with most other election related functions of the Secretary of State. (Ch. 555, Acts of 1969)

Charitable Organizations: Solicitation for charitable organizations was first regulated through the office of the Secretary of State with a 1964 law that required registration of solicitors. (Ch. 135) In 1976 the General Assembly passed a law specifying that every contract or agreement between a professional fund-raiser and a charitable organization be filed with the Secretary. (Ch. 679) Later changes required professional solicitors to file both registrations and financial reports and gave the Secretary the discretion to restrain or enjoin a person from acting as a solicitor. (Ch. 787, Acts of 1984; Ch. 125, 1992)  A 1996 law led to the availability of electronic data about the charitable giving information program in an effort to further that program. (Ch. 371, Acts of 1996)

Condominiums: Since 1981 the developer of a proposed residential condominium complex has been required to file with the Secretary of State a public offering (disclosure) statement that contains provisions specified by law. If the Secretary determines that the public offering statement complies with state law, an order of registration is issued. No portion of a condominium complex can be sold or offered for sale to the public until it has been registered with the Secretary. That office notifies the county or municipality in which a condominium is located about the filing. The developer must maintain a current registration by filing reports reflecting any changes from the original application. (Ch. 246, Acts of 1981; Chs. 525 and 570, Acts of 1984; Ch. 66, Acts of 1999) The Secretary also maintains other documentation concerning condominiums. A written statement describing the progress of construction or repairs in accordance with the public offering statement must be filed. (Ch. 570, Acts of 1984) Notice given to each tenant of intent to convert a property to a condominium and a list of tenants receiving this notice must be filed. (Ch. 360, Acts of 1986) Also mandated is the establishment of a file in the office of the Secretary of local legislation affecting condominiums. The Secretary works with the Attorney General's Consumer Protection Division to enforce regulations regarding condominiums. (Ch. 836, Acts of 1982; Ch. 8, Acts of 1983)

Domestic: All corporations and organizations were required to file charters with the judges of the circuit court where the main office was located, who beginning in 1914 then sent all documents to the Secretary of State for duplicate recording. The Secretary prepared an abstract for the State Tax Commission. (Ch. 789, Acts of 1914) The State Tax Commission would then send the original documents back to the Secretary of State. (Ch. 596, Acts of 1916) In 1920 the Secretary was removed as a recording official in favor of the Tax Commission. (Ch. 327, Acts of 1920)
Foreign: Beginning in 1898 any foreign corporation wishing to conduct business in Maryland had to file with the Secretary of State a certified copy of its charter, certificate, or act of incorporation. The Secretary recorded the information and issued a certificate of compliance. (Ch. 270) A 1920 act transferred jurisdiction over foreign corporations to the State Tax Commission, along with all records and papers. (Ch. 235) Twenty-nine years later the Secretary was directed to send to the Commission other documents, including certificates of incorporation. (Ch. 402, Acts of 1949)
Railroad: The Secretary of State acted as the record holder for railroad corporation charters and consolidation agreements between 1870 and 1971. (Ch. 242, Acts of 1876; Ch. 126, Acts of 1908)
Municipal: Copies of municipal charters, after being approved by a city legislative body or the voters, were sent to several state agencies, among them the office of the Secretary of State and the Department of Legislative Reference. The latter is currently the official record holder. (Ch. 423, Acts of 1955; Ch. 78, Acts of 1983)

Digital Signatures: As part of a program to establish a digital signature pilot program in state government, the Secretary of State has adopted regulations to implement and administer a method to conduct authenticated electronic transactions. (Ch. 482, Acts of 1998)

1800s: In 1890 the Secretary of State was given the first of many responsibilities concerning elections. All certificates of nomination and nomination papers for constitutional and state offices were filed with the Secretary who forwarded the names of the nominees to local boards of supervisors of elections for placement on ballots. Candidates could withdraw their names by writing to the Secretary. (Ch. 538, Acts of 1890) In 1896 the Secretary was directed to preserve nomination documents for two years. The Secretary was also charged with getting proposed constitutions, proposed constitutional amendments, and other questions submitted for referendum on the ballot. The State Board of Canvassers, now called the Board of State Canvassers, was created as well in 1896 and initially consisted of the Secretary of State, Comptroller of the Treasury, State Treasurer, Attorney General, and clerk of the Court of Appeals. The Board tabulates election returns at the state level. Until creation of the State Administrative Board of Election Laws in 1969, the Secretary served as the record keeping officer for the Board of Canvassers. (Ch. 202, Acts of 1896; Ch. 555, Acts of 1969)
1900s: Throughout most of the twentieth century the General Assembly revised statutes regarding campaigns and elections. Some were labeled corrupt practices acts and almost all outlined detailed procedures. Judges' rulings concerning some contested elections were forwarded to the Secretary of State who then submitted the findings to a variety of other state officials, depending on the office affected. (Ch. 122, Acts of 1908) Further changes to the Secretary's functions were enacted in 1945. The Secretary of State became the record keeper of votes on state and local referendum questions. In addition, applications for absentee ballots had to be filed with the Secretary who forwarded them to the appropriate local election board which then mailed the actual ballots. The ballots were returned to the Secretary and then forwarded to the local election boards. (Ch. 934, Acts of 1945)  A later law placed the absentee ballot duties completely with the local boards of supervisors of elections, except for applications from armed services personnel. The same act clarified the duties of the Secretary with regard to certificates of candidacy and certificates of nomination. (Ch. 739, Acts of 1957)  In 1962 the General Assembly provided that petitions for placing referendum questions on the ballot be filed with the Secretary. (Ch. 43) In 1969, the the State Administrative Board of Election Laws was created and soon after took over most election responsibilities from the office of the Secretary of State. (Ch. 555, Acts of 1969)
Modern Day: The Secretary of State is still in charge of handling petitions to bring acts of the General Assembly to referendum, and publishes them together with constitutional amendments to be voted upon in the general elections. The Secretary  is still empowered to place upon the presidential primary ballot the names of those candidates determined to be advocated generally or recognized in the media.

Financial Disclosure: All persons holding the following state offices were required to file financial disclosure statements with the Secretary of State: Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, State Comptroller, Deputy Comptroller, State Treasurer, Deputy Treasurer, Secretary of State, and Secretary and Deputy Secretary of all principal executive departments. The statute also applied to candidates for those offices that were elective and was later extended to many other state positions. (Ch. 3, Acts of Special Session 1973) The public ethics law of 1979 required the disclosures to be filed with the newly created State Ethics Commission instead of the Secretary. (Ch. 513)

Housing Authorities: The Secretary of State is charged with the duty of issuing certificates of organization to housing authorities before they can conduct business. The Secretary keeps all articles and amendments submitted by the authorities and releases certified copies when requested. (Ch. 330, Acts of 1990)

Insignias: A 1933 law enables any association, lodge, or auxiliary to register with the Secretary of State and thus protect its name, motto, emblem or other insignia. (Ch. 343)

Lobbying: Beginning in 1900, it was mandatory for all persons acting as legislative counsel or agent to be registered with the Secretary of State. After each legislative session these lobbyists were required to file expense statements with the Secretary. (Ch. 328, Acts of 1900) A 1970 law made it necessary for every employer of a legislative agent to furnish the Secretary with a written, signed authorization. (Ch. 531)  The 1979 public ethics law transferred the duties regarding lobbyists to the State Ethics Commission. (Ch. 513)

Motor Vehicles: An act to define motor vehicles was passed in 1904. Vehicle owners were required to file with the Secretary of State a declaration that the owner was competent to drive and to pay a registration fee of one dollar per vehicle. The Secretary then issued a certificate to show registration of the vehicle. (Ch. 518)  An act passed two years later added chauffeurs to the registration law. (Ch. 449, Acts of 1906)  In 1910, the position of Commissioner of Motor Vehicles was established and all vehicle registration duties were transferred to this office. (Ch. 207) By 1929 non-resident drivers were increasing on Maryland roads. A new law provided that the use of public highways in Maryland by a non-resident driver was deemed as an appointment of the Secretary of State as his attorney upon whom could be served process papers arising from any car accident. In 1953 the General Assembly passed a law pertaining to residents of Maryland who left the state within six months, changed to three years in 1957, of being involved in an accident. These persons could be sued by substituted service of process on the Secretary as in the case of a non-resident. (Ch. 337, Acts of 1953; Ch. 67, 1957)

Returnable Containers and Laundered Articles: In 1993 the Secretary of State assumed the responsibility for registering descriptions of returnable containers and laundered articles from the local circuit court clerks. This law regulates the misuse of items such as milk crates from dairies and linens from laundry services. (Ch. 266, Acts of 1993)

Rules and Regulations: A 1949 law added the Secretary of State as a third repository, the other two being the clerk of the Court of Appeals and Department of Legislative Reference, for the rules and regulations adopted by state agencies. In addition, the Secretary published and distributed copies of the rules. (Ch. 738, Acts of 1949)  The portion of the law regarding publication was repealed in 1955. (Ch. 430) The creation of the Division of State Documents within the office of the Secretary of State in 1974 established a more formal process for the adoption and publication of state agency rules and regulations. (Ch. 600)

Soil Conservation Districts: A 1937 law mandated that the Secretary of State receive and examine the applications for soil conservation districts and supporting statements from State Soil Conservation Committees. Upon approval, the Secretary issued a certificate for the district. Similar procedures were followed for the discontinuance of a district. (Ch. 437, Acts of 1937) Now the districts are defined by law.

Special Police: A 1941 law authorizing special police, privately employed individuals with some legally defined police powers, provided for their appointment by the Governor. (Ch. 681, Acts of 1941) In 1969 the process changed so that the Secretary of State now processes the applications prior to the appointment. The clerks of the circuit courts administer the oaths of office and notify the Secretary of these actions. (Ch. 581, Acts of 1969)

Time Shares: The functions of the Secretary of State with regard to the time sharing of real estate are very similar to those of condominiums. A developer of a time share project is required to file with the Secretary a public offering statement for the proposal. If the statement satisfies the requirements of the real estate time sharing act, the Secretary issues an order of registration. (Ch. 720 and Ch. 721 of the Acts 1985)

Trademarks: In 1892 any corporation or individual could file a record of a trademark, label, or form of advertisement with the Secretary of State and upon approval be issued a certificate of record. (Ch. 357) Later, trademark law was refined to provide for the protection of certain words, names, symbols, devices, or any combination thereof, and a time limit of ten years was introduced as well as an option for renewal of a registration. (Ch. 63, Acts of 1954) Further revisions included changing the term trademark to mark and forbidding the registration of trade names. (Ch. 751, Acts of 1967; Ch. 245, Acts of 1972) A 1994 law repealed the right to judicial review of a decision by the Secretary to deny the registration of a trademark. (Ch. 22)

Trading Stamps: Trading stamp companies are required to register with and secure a bond payable to the Secretary of State. The company must also file with the Secretary an intent to suspend redemption of trading stamps at least ninety days prior to the effective date. (Ch. 650, Acts of 1959)

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