The secretary of state, an elected constitutional official, is responsible for a wide range of services and regulatory duties, in addition to being the keeper of the Great Seal of Georgia and the custodian of the state flag and other state symbols. The secretary of state also chairs the Claims Advisory Board, which receives, investigates, and hears civil claims against the state. The current secretary of state, Republican Brad Raffensperger, was elected in a runoff vote in December 2018. Runoffs are required when neither candidate wins a majority of the votes in a general election.
Responsibilities of the secretary’s office include supervising and monitoring elections and providing campaign finance disclosure; managing and preserving public records; and licensing, monitoring, and registering professionals and businesses. The office includes the divisions of elections, corporations, securities and business regulation, professional licensing boards, and the state capitol. Attached agencies are the Georgia Commission on the Holocaust, Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency, State Ethics Commission, and the Georgia Real Estate Commission and Appraisers Board.
In order to make the services of this office more accessible to the public, in addition to the offices at the state capitol, there is a satellite office in Tifton.
The office of the secretary of state coordinates and monitors all election activity: this includes voter registration; municipal, state, county, and federal elections; campaign finance disclosure for state and federal candidates and political action committees; and certification of election results. The office is also responsible for certifying the qualification of candidates and the preparation of ballots and election forms and materials. As a result of legislation passed by the General Assembly in 2001, the office is responsible for removing the names of deceased electors from voter registration lists statewide. The secretary chairs the State Election Board, which investigates election fraud and enforces state election law. As part of an effort to modernize state election procedures, the Twenty-first Century Voting Commission and the secretary of state’s office worked to establish a statewide uniform election system, which was implemented for the first time in November 2002.
The secretary’s office receives campaign finance disclosure and personal finance disclosure forms from candidates for state offices. Since June 30, 2001, all statewide candidates have been required to file their disclosure reports electronically so that the reports may be posted on the secretary of state’s Web site. Although the secretary’s office receives and makes campaign finance disclosure reports available to the public, disclosure violations are investigated by the State Ethics Commission, which is granted the authority to administer the Ethics in Government Act. This commission is responsible for overseeing the disclosure reports of an estimated 6,000 public officials of state, county, and municipal governments in Georgia, the registration of lobbyists and maintenance of lobbyist disclosure reports, and maintenance of vendor disclosure reports.
As part of its mandated duties, the office of the secretary of state is responsible for public records, such as maps, surveys, grants, agency rules and regulations, and laws. This material is made publicly available through the Georgia Code.
In its regulatory capacity, the office of the secretary of state provides education and examinations, issues licenses and collects license fees, investigates complaints or violations of the law, and issues reprimands.
The corporations division registers and regulates foreign and domestic corporations and others seeking to do business in the state. It also registers and regulates nonprofit organizations and other types of corporate activities. Another function of this division is the registration of trademarks and service marks.
The professional licensing boards division provides administrative and investigative support for thirty-four occupational and professional regulatory boards in sixty-four trades and professions, regulating more than 700,000 active and inactive licensees to provide consumer protection. Duties include reviewing and approving licenses to practice, scheduling examinations, issuing licenses and collecting fees, investigating violations, and resolving complaints. In 1999 this board moved to a facility in Macon in order to improve customer service and accessibility.
The securities and business regulation division regulates investment advisors, the issuance and sale of securities, and the solicitation of charitable contributions. This division is also responsible for registering cemeteries, auditing perpetual care trusts, and regulating perpetual care cemeteries and paid solicitors.
The Georgia Drugs and Narcotics Agency provides support for the State Board of Pharmacy by providing inspections and investigations of pharmacies and by enforcing state laws governing controlled substances and poisons. The agency also is responsible for destroying expired and outdated controlled substances.
The Georgia Real Estate Commission provides regulation for real estate brokers and salespersons, as well as support for the Georgia Real Estate Appraisers Board. To ensure efficiency and fairness in all qualifying examinations, the commission contracts for the development and administration of the exams. Tests are given by computer, and applicants receive their results on the day of the examination.