The Office of the Secretary of State existed even before Alabama became a state. The first secretary of state, Henry Hitchcock (1818-19) served for the Alabama Territory. The secretary of state served a two-year term from the time Alabama became a state in 1819 until the Constitution of 1901 set the term at four years. Up until 1868, the secretary of state was elected by the legislature, but since that time has been selected by popular vote.
Click here for a complete listing of the men and women who have served as Alabama's secretary of state.
Today, the secretary of state runs on the same election cycle as the governor and may serve only two consecutive terms before having to vacate the office for at least one term. If a secretary of state resigns or dies, the governor appoints someone to serve for the remainder of the term.
Minimum requirements for the job are that the secretary of state be at least 25 years old, a registered voter, a resident of the state for five years and a United States citizen for seven years.
State law gives the secretary of state more than 1,000 different duties and virtually all of them involve processing and filing documents that are public records. Many of the documents must have the Great Seal of Alabama affixed in order to make them official.
Approximately 500,000 documents are stored in the Office of the Secretary of State, and they basically fall into four categories: executive, legislative, elections and business.
In order to keep up with the public demand for access to these records, the office uses extensive computer and information technology. The Alabama Secretary of State's Office was one of the first in the nation to successfully store and retrieve the records on an optical disk. Almost all records are now available to businesses online.
Many of the executive records have both the signatures of the secretary of state and of the governor because the secretary of state serves as the governor's personal notary public. When the secretary of state is witnessing the governor's signature, the Great Seal of Alabama is used as the "notary" seal. Included in this type of executive records are writs of arrest, contracts, deeds and leases. Other executive records include listings of abandoned vehicles found in the state, information on municipal incorporations, and the names of all notaries public registered in Alabama.
The secretary of state is Alabama's "Chief Election Official". The secretary of state is given many different election duties under state law. Election records include vote totals, certified ballots and records showing how much money candidates and political committees raised and spent during an election. Copies of certificates of election, commissions, and oaths of office are also on file for many elected officials.
Business records are divided into two categories: Business Services and Uniform Commercial Code (UCC).
Business Entities staff members reserve names of businesses that incorporate to do business in Alabama. The state has about 200,000 corporate filings, and staff members usually get about 300 requests each day for information in those files. The UCC Section maintains more than 220,000 financing statements that are filed by attorneys and banking institutions.