North Carolina Secretary of State

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Secretary of State of North Carolina
SOS NC.png
Elaine Marshall IACA 2018.jpg
Elaine Marshall

since January 6, 1997
StatusConstitutional officer
Member ofCouncil of State
SeatRaleigh, North Carolina
AppointerGeneral election
Term lengthFour years, no term limits
Inaugural holderJames Glasgow
FormationNovember 12, 1776
(245 years ago)
WebsiteOfficial Site, Facebook

The North Carolina Secretary of State is a constitutional officer in the executive branch of the government of the U.S. state of North Carolina, and is fourth in the line of succession to the office of Governor of North Carolina. Twenty-three individuals have held the office since statehood. The incumbent is Elaine Marshall, a Democrat and the first woman elected to the office.

History of the office[edit]

In 1665 the Lord Proprietors of the Province of Carolina created the office of the Colonial Secretary of Carolina. The inaugural secretary, Richard Cobthrop, never travelled to America, but most of the subsequent 23 secretaries came to Carolina.[1] In 1675 the secretary became responsible to the King of England, and was largely tasked with clerical duties relating to land ownership. Following the United States Declaration of Independence, North Carolina created a constitution in 1776 which provided for the North Carolina General Assembly to "triennially appoint a secretary for this State."[2] The Assembly appointed James Glasgow to the office in December and reappointed him the following year.[3] He held the office for over 20 years before resigning due to allegations that he had issued fraudulent land warrants.[4] William Hill served as secretary from 1811 to 1857, setting the record tenure for the office until the 20th century. When the North Carolina State House caught fire in 1831, he saved many of the office's records.[5]

In 1868 North Carolina created a new constitution, which provided for the popular election of the secretary of state with four-year terms and no term limits.[5] Thad A. Eure held the office from 1936 to 1989,[6][7] setting the latest record tenure.[8] Most secretaries of the state have come from eastern North Carolina. Rufus L. Edmisten, sworn-in in 1989, was the first one to come from the western portion of the state.[5] Janice H. Faulkner, appointed by the Governor of North Carolina in 1996 to fill the vacancy created by Edmisten's resignation, became the first woman to hold the office.[9] Since the passage of the Executive Reorganization Act of 1971, the secretary's agency has been the Department of Secretary of State.[5][2]

The office's responsibilities—determined by statute—have varied over its existence. The secretariat managed the issuance of land grants from its colonial creation until 1957. In 1831 the secretary was briefly designated state librarian. The office has also at times been responsible for insurance regulation, vehicle registration, and collection of the state gas tax. Until the General Assembly was moved to the State Legislative Building and given a professional staff in the 1960s, the secretary was responsible for assisting it in several matters, including seating assignment in the legislative chambers, enrolling acts and resolutions before their ratification, and indexing and printing the session laws.[2] The State Board of Elections briefly operated under the secretary from 1971 to 1972.[10]

Powers and duties[edit]

Historically, the North Carolina Secretary of State has been weaker than their contemporaries around the United States. Unlike in other states, where the secretary of state serves as the chief elections officer, in North Carolina the State Board of Elections administers elections independently of other agencies.[11][12] The secretary is charged with attending sessions of the General Assembly to obtain possession of laws passed by it, and maintains the official journals of each house.[13] They also administer the North Carolina Securities Act and the Uniform Commercial Code, charter corporations, register trademarks, manage land records, and register legislative lobbyists.[2] The secretary commissions notary publics in the state,[2] and they are empowered to administer oaths of office to public officials and law enforcement officers.[11]

The secretary of state is a member of the North Carolina Council of State and ex officio a member of the Local Government Commission and Capital Planning Commission. They are fourth in line of succession to the governor.[5]

List of secretaries of state[edit]

North Carolina Secretaries of State
No. Secretary of State Term in office Party Source
1 James Glasgow 1776 – 1798 [3]
2 William White 1798 – 1811 [3]
3 William Hill 1811 – 1857 [5]
4 Rufus H. Page 1857 – 1862 [3]
5 John P. H. Russ 1862 – 1865 [3]
6 Charles R. Thomas 1865 [3]
7 Robert W. Best 1866 – 1868 [3]
8 Henry J. Menninger 1868 – 1873 Republican [6]
9 William H. Howerton 1873 – 1877 Republican [6]
10 Joseph Adolphus Engelhard 1877 – 1879 Democratic [6]
11 William L. Saunders.jpg William L. Saunders 1879 – 1891 Democratic [6]
12 Octavius Coke 1891 – 1895 Democratic [6]
13 Charles Mather Cooke.jpg Charles M. Cooke 1895 – 1897 Democratic [6]
14 Cyrus Thompson, 1919.jpg Cyrus Thompson 1897 – 1901 Republican [6]
15 J. Bryan Grimes, North Carolina Secretary of State.png John Bryan Grimes 1901 – 1923 Democratic [6]
16 William N. Everett 1923 – 1928 Democratic [6]
17 James A. Hartness 1928 – 1933 Democratic [6]
18 Stacey W. Wade 1933 – 1936 Democratic [6]
19 Charles G. Powell 1936 Democratic [6]
20 Thad Eure NC.png Thad A. Eure 1936 – 1989 Democratic [6][7]
21 EdmistenRL.jpg Rufus L. Edmisten 1989 – 1996 Democratic
22 Janice H. Faulkner 1996 – 1997 Democratic [14]
22 Elaine Marshall IACA 2018.jpg Elaine Marshall 1997 – present Democratic [2]


  1. ^ Betts 1989, p. 4.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Smith, Clyde (2006). "North Carolina Secretary of State". NCPedia. North Carolina Government & Heritage Library. Retrieved October 5, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Cheney 1981, p. 181.
  4. ^ Betts 1989, pp. 4–5.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Betts 1989, p. 5.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Cheney 1981, p. 425.
  7. ^ a b Christensen 2010, p. 100.
  8. ^ Betts 1989, pp. 2, 5.
  9. ^ "Former North Carolina Secretary of State Faulkner dies at 87". North State Journal. Associated Press. October 16, 2019. Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  10. ^ Betts 1989, p. 17.
  11. ^ a b Betts 1989, p. 7.
  12. ^ Specht, Paul (November 5, 2020). "No, North Carolina's Secretary of State doesn't control elections". PolitiFact. Retrieved June 13, 2022.
  13. ^ Betts 1989, pp. 5, 7.
  14. ^ Waggoner, Martha (May 30, 1997). "A Fix For Everything? She's in a State of Repair". News & Record. Associated Press. Retrieved February 10, 2021.

Works cited[edit]

  • Betts, Jack (August 1989). "The Department of the Secretary of State: Which Way Now?" (PDF). North Carolina Insight. pp. 2–20.
  • Cheney, John L. Jr., ed. (1981). North Carolina Government, 1585-1979 : A Narrative and Statistical History (revised ed.). Raleigh: North Carolina Secretary of State. OCLC 1290270510.
  • Christensen, Rob (2010). The Paradox of Tar Heel Politics : The Personalities, Elections, and Events That Shaped Modern North Carolina (second ed.). Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press. ISBN 978-0-8078-7151-5.

External links[edit]