Secretary of State: The Basics

The secretary of state is the only office within the plural executive as originally established by the Texas Constitution of 1876 that is not chosen via statewide election — the secretary of state is appointed by the governor and confirmed by the Texas Senate.  Once appointed, the secretary of state serves four-year terms with no term limits unless removed prior to the end of an appointed term.  There are no specific qualifications required to serve as secretary of state.  In 2016, the secretary of state was compensated $132,924/year.

The secretary of state performs a variety of administrative functions on behalf of the state.  The secretary of state issues corporate charters and “provides a repository for official business and commercial records required to be filed with the Office” (Texas Secretary of State, n.d.).  The secretary of state publishes rules and regulations created by state bureaucratic agencies, certifies notaries public, attests to the governor’s signature on official documents, and keeps the state seal.

The secretary of state serves as the chief election officer for the state; as such, this office is responsible for administering state elections, which includes:

  • assisting counties in ensuring consistent application and interpretation of election laws
  • conducting voter registration drives
  • certifying election results
  • maintaining a list of lobbyists and campaign contributions

The secretary of state also serves as the state’s chief international protocol officer and acts as a senior advisor and liaison to the Governor for the Texas Border and Mexican Affairs Division.  These foreign affairs duties were originally granted to the Secretary of the Republic by the Texas Constitution of 1836 (which, if you think about it, makes sense — the U.S. the secretary of state plays a similar role in foreign affairs); this role remained with this office when it was modified following Texas’s annexation.