What the North Carolina secretary of state actually does

The North Carolina secretary of state is elected statewide every four years and sits on the Council of State.

But what does this elected official actually do? In this guide, we’ll give you everything you need to know.

Who is currently the N.C. secretary of state?

The current secretary of state is Elaine Marshall. The Lenoir County Democrat was first elected in 1996 in a barnburner of a race against Richard Petty — yes, that Richard Petty. That made Marshall the first woman elected statewide in North Carolina.

Since then, Marshall has been re-elected five times, usually with the highest vote percentage of any statewide Democrat.

Secretary of State Elaine Marshall

What does the N.C. secretary of state do?

The state constitution mandates that the voters of North Carolina elect a secretary of state every four years, but doesn’t specify the position’s duties.

That’s spelled out in state law, and has evolved over time.

Currently, the secretary of state office has two major responsibilities: registering businesses and registering lobbyists.

Business registration. If you’re trying to start a business, chances are you’re going to begin with the secretary of state’s office. Here you’ll fill out the paperwork and pay your registration fee to start an LLC, corporation or partnership. You’ll also go to the North Carolina secretary of state to file your annual report and pay those fees.

Lobbyist registration. If your job is to influence the General Assembly, you must register and file regular expense reports with the North Carolina secretary of state. These duties were temporarily moved to the State Board of Elections, but returned to the secretary of state in December 2018.

Other duties:

  • Certify notaries public and issue licenses
  • Register charities engaged in solicitation and issue them licenses
  • Register insurance agents
  • Register athletic agents
  • Register campground operators
  • Maintain UCC debt filings

Who is qualified to be North Carolina secretary of state?

There are no special qualifications for this office. To run, you must be 21 years of age and a qualified voter in North Carolina.

However, many candidates highlight their experience as a CPA or similar backgrounds.

Who’s likely to be the next North Carolina secretary of state? Find out here.

Cover image of North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall by U.S. Embassy Moldova via Flickr (Creative Commons)

1 thought on “What the North Carolina secretary of state actually does”

  1. There exist many Notary Public’s in NC who believe the SOS has the legal authority to write and publish the Law for Notaries, but the SOS has no legal authority to do so!


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