In this entry we will be examining Secretaries of State – typically tasked with business registration, professional licensing and election oversight in most states – including a state-by-state index of the records retained and available online research resources. The Secretary of State’s office typically retains records pertaining to businesses, such as registration filings, statements of information and Uniform Commercial Code filings, as well as databases of notaries public in the state, registered athletic agents in the state, licensed professionals, state land dealings, charitable organizations. In addition, Secretaries of State are tasked with maintaining campaign finance records, as covered in our prior blog here, and in some instances are also responsible for maintaining financial disclosure filings of elected officials, as discussed in our prior blog here.
The business entity records maintained by the Secretaries of State typically include an initial business registration (and/or articles of incorporation), annual reports or statements of information and articles of dissolution or cancellations. Notary public information often includes the name, date of commission, expiration, and their bonding company. Professional license information often includes listings of status, date of licensure, as well as any disciplinary actions against the individual – in cases where disciplinary action is logged there may be digitally-accessible records of the complaints, descriptions of the resolution, etc. Registered athletic agents, in states where the Secretary of State keeps track of them, provide the office with their name, company name, business phone, and effective dates of permitting. In states like Colorado, the organizational documents for charities can be retrieved digitally – three-year financial data is also provided, along with expiry of licensure and current standing with the state.
While online searches for corporate entities are extremely common, online access to the actual filings recorded by a Secretary of State’s office can vary. Even if these records are not made available over the internet, it is usually straightforward to contact the corporate division of the Secretary of State and inquire about their exact process for requesting copies of their corporate filings.
Some states such as Alaska, Utah and Hawaii do not actually have a Secretary of State, instead opting to spread what would be the secretary’s duties among several divisions, committees, and commissions. In these states, the Lieutenant Governor may also be involved in the administration of these duties. See the list below for each state’s Secretary of State and their online records, along with brief descriptions of the records they maintain:
Alabama: The Alabama Secretary of State is responsible for services such as administrative services, UCC services, and business entities. Alabama has a wide variety of accessible online records repositories, including ones for campaign finance, notary public searches, business entity searches (includes entity name/number, officer, agent and incorporator filter options), civil law notary names, UCC, land, trademark, and athletic agents searches.
Alaska: There is no Secretary of State for Alaska – what would be the SOS’ duties are split among different divisions and commissions. The Division of Corporations, Business and Professional Licensing handles the state’s business registration work. Copies of corporate filings can be obtained here, through the Division’s website. The Division also has a professional, business, and corporation license search here. The Alaska Public Offices Commission is responsible for records which include lobbying disclosures, financial disclosures, and campaign committee disclosures. The Alaska Department of Natural Resources is responsible for UCC filings.
Arizona: The Arizona Secretary of State handles matters pertaining to elections, as well as storing records related to campaign finance. The online search database goes back to races in 1994. However, the AZ SOS does not maintain a business search function. Matters of incorporation and the associated filings are searchable with the Arizona Corporation Commission. The Arizona SOS has a searchable database of other business-related filings though such as trade names, trademarks, and partnerships, UCC, notary public, charities and telephonic seller searches – those can be found off of this page.
Arkansas: The Arkansas Secretary of State has a searchable, online database for business and commercial filings, elections and education information. Education information includes teacher resources, classroom presentations, and curriculum maps and lesson plans regarding activities undertaken by the Secretary of State’s office. The links to each respective search are available through the Arkansas SOS’ homepage.
California: The California Secretary of State has a searchable, online database for campaign finance records and business and commercial filings. Images of business filings are typically available through the mid-nineties, with earlier documents necessitating a request – a request form can be obtained here. Individuals must sign in through the California Business Portal in order to access information on UCC filings. California’s SOS has a tool called Cal-Access which has detailed information on everything pertaining to political campaigning – this includes independent expenditure committees, candidate committees, political action committees, lobbyists, lobbying firms and employers, etc.
Colorado: The Colorado Secretary of State has online searches for businesses, UCC, campaign finance records and has a notary verification search. The SOS also oversees the state’s elections, bingo and raffle licenses and charitable organizations. You can search registered charitable organizations in the state here. You can also search for registered lobbyists in the state here. Colorado’s SOS also has a Durable Medical Equipment (DME) supplier name/license search available here.
Connecticut: The Connecticut Secretary of State maintains business and UCC records and administers the state’s elections, but does not manage or maintain statewide campaign finance records. Rather, the State Elections Enforcement Commission (SEEC) handles this. The SOS has an online business search, available here, where you can search by the business name, ID, or filing number. You can search UCC debtors by business/individual name or lien number here.
Delaware: Delaware’s Secretary of State is the head of the Delaware Department of state, which oversees almost twenty difference agencies including the Division of Corporations, Historical and Cultural Affairs, Arts, and more. The Secretary of State does not administer statewide elections – rather, this duty is managed by the Delaware Department of Elections. You may search for licensed professionals by name, license number, city of registration or any combination thereof, here. Business filings are viewable with the Division of Corporations. This search offers limited details on entities, excluding important information such as the registered agent, current status (good standing, cancelled, etc.), current filing history and more. This information is only available after you pay a fee of either $10 to check the entity’s status, or $20 for filing history and a franchise tax assessment. Delaware’s legal and tax structure is extremely appealing to those wishing to start a business – over 1 million businesses and more than 66% of Fortune 500 companies are registered in the state. This is due to specialized courts and a forgiving tax system. Delaware has a specialized court dedicated to business hearings, called the Court of Chancery, which was established in 1792. It operates with a judge and no jury, allowing for expedient resolution of business matters brought before it. The state’s tax system allows businesses to legally minimize their bills – for example, companies that are incorporated in the state but do business elsewhere do not have to pay state corporate income tax.
Florida: Florida’s Secretary of State is the head of the Department of State, and serves as the Chief of Elections, Chief Cultural Officer, and the State Protocol Officer. However, the Florida SOS does not maintain campaign finance records – the Division of Elections is responsible for this. You can search for business filings here by the name of the entity, officer/registered agent, trademark name, or by street address. Search results include viewable articles of incorporation and an Annual Report, which is basically a statement of basic business information. The Florida SOS is also responsible for the state’s cultural affairs
Georgia: Georgia’s Secretary of State oversees corporations, elections, licensing and securities. The Securities Division is charged with the implementation and enforcement of the state’s Uniform Securities Act of 2008. The Business Search function allows you to find businesses by name, control number, or registered agent/officer name. Results contain a complete filing history that includes downloadable images. While the SOS oversees elections, it does not manage the state’s campaign finance information – that task is left to the Georgia Government Transparency and Campaign Finance Commission, formerly known as the State Ethics Commission. You may search for licensed individuals here, and search business/company licensees here.
Hawaii: Like Alaska, Hawaii does not have a Secretary of State and has several different branches which are responsible for the state’s administration. The state’s Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs is responsible for administrative duties related to businesses. The DCCA has an online search function here, which only allows you to search by the name of the business. You may only access general information for free – certificates of good standing and annual filings must be purchased for $7.50 and $3.00 respectively. The Department of Commerce & Consumer Affairs also has a professional and vocational licensing search, available here – you may search by the individual’s license number or by the business/licensed individual’s name. The Hawaii Office of Elections is responsible for the administration of the state’s elections.
Idaho: The Idaho Secretary of State has three main divisions which it is responsible for oversight of – Business Services, Elections Division, and Government Services. Idaho has a business/trademark search here. Images of the business’ annual reports and initial filings may be accessed for free through this search. In the Elections Division, you can search for current and historical election results, candidate information and current elected officials. Campaign finance and disclosure, lobbyist information and agency reporting information are also available through the Idaho SOS. You can also perform a UCC debtor search here.
Illinois: The Illinois Secretary of State’s duties are divided amongst 21 departments which employ about 4,000 people. The SOS has online search functions for businesses, economic interest filings for officials and certain state employees, lobbyist information, UCC/Federal tax liens, notary public, securities, LPs and LLPs, and trademarks.
Indiana: The Indiana Secretary of State oversees the registering of new businesses, the regulation of the securities industry, has oversight of the state’s elections, notaries public, registers trademarks, professional licensees and licenses vehicle dealerships. The Indiana Secretary of State has online searches for valid auto dealers in the state, business entities, election results, UCC liens with images, and securities registrations. You may also search for trademarks or service marks, here. You may perform a search for professional licensees here.
Iowa: The Iowa Secretary of State is responsible for overseeing the state’s businesses, commissioning of notaries public, nonprofits formation, and elections. Iowa’s Secretary of State has online searches for business entities, UCC and federal tax liens, mechanic’s notice and mechanic’s liens, and authorized notaries.
Kansas: The Kansas Secretary of State oversees the state’s business entity filings and elections & legislative matters. The Kansas Secretary of State has an online business entity database search which allows you to search by entity name/ID number resident agent’s full number, or keyword. The office also has a trademark search, lobbyist search, and voter registration check which can be completed with just the first/last names, date of birth and county of residence.
Kentucky: The Kentucky SOS oversees the state’s elections as the Chief Election Official, as well as overseeing business filings as its Chief Business Official. From the Kentucky Secretary of State’s homepage, one can search for UCC filings and business filings. Separately, you may search an individual’s voter registration if you have the last four SSN digits. Additionally, the Kentucky SOS has a search function called Open Boards Kentucky where you may search every board and commission in the state to see members, vacancies, expiring terms as well as compensation for these positions.
Louisiana: Through the Louisiana Secretary of State, you may search for business filings here. In order to use the online search function to obtain UCC financing statements, you must purchase a $400/year Direct Access subscription. Interestingly, the Louisiana SOS has an Inactive Voters search, which allows you to search for voters whose registration status is inactive for myriad reasons. You may search for registered voters here with a first, last name, zip code and birth month and year. You may search for Louisiana notaries here.
Maine: The Maine Secretary of State oversees one department which consists of three bureaus – the Maine State Archives, Bureau of Motor Vehicles, and the Bureau of Corporations, Elections, and Commissions. You can search for businesses with the Corporate Name Search. UCC searches can be performed here. You may search for notary public and dedimus justices (someone who performs a single function under Maine statute – swearing in public officials) here.
Maryland: Unlike most other states, Maryland’s Secretary of State is an appointed position by the Governor. The SOS is also not responsible for administering the state’s elections – rather, that is handled by the State Board of Elections. Again, unlike other states, the Maryland Secretary of State is not responsible for handling business filings, but rather certain executive functions. Functions include extraditions and requisitions, pardons and commutations, public disclosures with people doing business with the state, and certifying candidates for nomination by a principal political party on the presidential primary ballot. The Maryland Secretary of State has a notary, charities, trademark and professional solicitors search all on this page here. The Maryland Department of Assessments of Taxation has a business entity and UCC filings search here.
Massachusetts: In Massachusetts, the Secretary of the Commonwealth oversees the Corporations Division, Massachusetts elections, the Massachusetts Historical Commission, and several bodies related to public records such as the Public Records Division and the State Records Center. The Secretary of the Commonwealth has a UCC filing search here and a business entity search here. The office also has a lobbyist search, genealogical search, and provides aids for genealogical research through the Massachusetts Archives.
Michigan: The Michigan Secretary of State serves as the Chief Motor Vehicle Administrator and Chief Election Officer. The office also maintains the state’s official repository of records and certifies documents. The Michigan SOS has a UCC debtor name search function here, but does not have a business entity search. The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) Corporations Division is responsible for the state’s business filings – they have a business entity search function here. LARA also has an occupational licensee search here. You may also perform a notary public search here.
Minnesota: The Minnesota Secretary of State is responsible for the oversight of business registrations, UCC filings, and the state’s elections. You may search for both UCC debtors and statewide tax lien holders here, but must first create an online account. You may search for business filings here. You may also check your voter registration here. You may search for a notary here. There is also an open position search for the state’s boards and commissions, located here.
Mississippi: The Mississippi Secretary of State’s office is comprised of eight divisions: the Business Services Division, the Charities Division, the Public Lands Division, the Elections Division, the Regulation & Enforcement Division, the Securities Division, the Education & Publications Division, and the Policy & Research Division. The Mississippi SOS has many online search functions, including one for business entities, notaries, a public UCC search, charities, and securities search all located on this page.
Missouri: The Missouri Secretary of State is responsible for business registrations and filings, the state’s elections, securities, state library and state records and archives. The SOS has a business entity search here and a UCC search (which requires an online account) here. You can also check an individual’s voter registration here with complete name and date of birth here.
Montana: The Montana Secretary of State is split into four divisions: Business and UCC, Elections, Notary, and Montana Administrative Register (MAR). A Business Entity and UCC search are available on the same page here. Note that you must create an online account in order to search UCC filings. You may check voter registration for individuals here, with a complete name and date of birth. Notaries can be searched here.
Nebraska: The Nebraska Secretary of State is split into four divisions: Elections, Business Services, Licensing, and Records Management. A free business entity search is available here, but you must pay $4.50 to perform a UCC name search, which is located here. You may search individuals’ voter registrations here with a county, complete name and date of birth. Under the Licensing Division, you may search lists of private detectives, collection agencies, athletic agents, and more all on this page here.
Nevada: The Nevada Secretary of State oversees the state’s elections, business registrations, securities and licensing. A business entity search is available here. You must create an online account to use the UCC search, here. You may also search your own voter registration status here if you have your last four SSN digits, driver’s license, complete name and birthday.
New Hampshire: The New Hampshire Secretary of State oversees the state’s archives and genealogical records, corporations and business entities, elections, UCC, securities, and vital records. You may search for business filings here. An online UCC search is not available through the NH SOS. An online voter registration check only allows you to verify what party you are registered as. You can see registered lobbyists and financial reports here.
New Jersey: The New Jersey Secretary of State oversees the state’s elections, business and economic development, as well as its arts and cultural programs. The NJ SOS does not retain searchable business documents, however – that is left to the Department of the Treasury. Limited information on business entities (status reports, standing certificates, and business entity documents are all in separate searches) may be obtained here. Similarly limited UCC filings may be searched here.
New Mexico: The New Mexico Secretary of State oversees the state’s elections, political campaign filings (lobbyists, committees, candidates etc.) and corporations services. You may search for business entities here by the entity name/dba name/business ID number here. UCC debtors may be searched here by name – images of documents are included. Voter registration information can be found here with a complete name, date of birth and county of residence. New Mexico notaries can be searched here.
New York: The New York Secretary of State is split into twelve divisions which range in covered subject matter from administrative hearings to consumer protections. However, the NY SOS does not administer or keep records for the state’s elections. The NY SOS has a business entity search here, and a professional licensing search page here. UCC records can be searched here.
North Carolina: The North Carolina Secretary of State oversees the state’s business entity registrations and filings, as well as securities registrations, athletic agents, and municipal records. The NC SOS does not oversee the state’s elections. An online search for UCC filings can be performed here. A search for business entities can be found here. The NC SOS also has a notary search here, a trademark search here, and a federal tax lien search here.
North Dakota: The North Dakota Secretary of State oversees the state’s elections and business entity filings and records. Business entity records can be searched here. UCC records can be searched here. There’s a list of registered lobbyists which goes back to 2014, here.
Ohio: The Ohio Secretary of State oversees the state’s elections, campaign finance data, businesses, notary and other records. Business entity records can be searched here. UCC records can be searched here by active filings and active filings plus those that lapse within a year. A notary search is located here.
Oklahoma: Like Maryland, the Oklahoma Secretary of State is appointed by the Governor. The Oklahoma Secretary of State’s office is responsible for many administrative and some executive functions such as attesting to the Governors signature and filing all official acts of the Governor. Business entity searches can be performed here. UCC searches cannot be performed online. Agricultural liens may only be performed via a mailed request form. The Oklahoma Secretary of State also maintains meeting minutes for state public bodies, which can be searched here. The Executive/Legislative Division has searches for things such as executive appointments, executive orders, paroles and pardons, as well as tribal compacts and agreements. All of these searches can be completed here.
Oregon: The Oregon Secretary of State is divided into four divisions, with the Executive Division overseeing these four. The divisions are: Business, Voting & Elections, State Archives, and Audits. State Audits and Reviews are publicly searchable here. UCC searches can be completed here. Business entities can be searched here. Archival records can be accessed here.
Pennsylvania: The Pennsylvania Secretary of the Commonwealth administers the Pennsylvania Department of State, and retains records for professional licensing, business entities and charities, as well as managing the state’s elections. Additionally, the Secretary of the Commonwealth is appointed to the position by the Governor of Pennsylvania. Business entity searches can be performed here. UCC searches can be completed here. You can also verify a licensed professional by name, here. From that same page, you may also search for disciplinary actions against individuals and facilities. Charities can be searched and verified here.
Rhode Island: The Rhode Island Secretary of State is responsible for administering the state’s elections, maintaining aspects of open government such as lobbyist registrations, boards and commissions records, public records, etc., as well as maintain a corporate and UCC database. Both the UCC and business entity searches can be accessed from this page here. You may also check voter registration information here with complete name, date of birth and address information.
South Carolina: The South Carolina Secretary of State is responsible for business entity filings, public charities, trademarks, notaries, and boards and commissions. Business entities can be searched here. UCC filings can be searched here – do note, however, that there is a $10 electronic records access fee, a $5 UCC search fee, and a $1/document charge.
South Dakota: The South Dakota Secretary of State’s office is divided into three divisions – elections and voting, business services, and general services. The SD SOS has an online search for business entities here. However, the SD SOS does not have an online search function for UCC debtors. South Dakota notaries can be searched here.
Tennessee: The Tennessee Secretary of State oversees the state’s businesses, charitable solicitations, fantasy sports and gaming, elections, and the State’s archives. The charitable solicitations division oversees things such as athletic agent licensing, charitable gaming, and has a charitable organization search as well as a professional solicitors search. Business entities can be searched here, while UCC filings can be searched here. Additionally, trademarks in the state can be searched here. Tennessee also has extensive historical information through the Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA), which can be searched here. It contains photographs, documents, maps, postcards, A/V records, etc.
Texas: The Texas Secretary of State is appointed by the Governor. They serve as the Chief Election Officer, oversee the state’s official, business and commercial records, publish rules and regulations, and the commissioning of notaries public. The Texas Secretary of State also serves as senior advisor to the Governor for the Texas Border and Mexican Affairs, and also serves as the state’s Chief International Protocol Officer. The Texas SOS has an online search service called SOSDirect, which, for $1/search, allows users search corporation information, UCC filings, etc. – you must fill out a temporary login form in order to use this function. The Texas SOS has a search function that has a selectable list of options including athletic agents, auto services clubs, health spas, notaries public, and more here – look on the left side of the page under ‘Search.’
Utah: Utah does not have a secretary of state. The duties normally performed by the SOS are split among seven other governmental agencies, including the Lieutenant Governor’s office, the Division of Corporations and Commercial Code, Division of Consumer Protection, and more. You can search Utah businesses and UCC filings here, through the Division of Corporations of Commercial Code. The Lieutenant Governor is responsible for financial disclosure documents, document authentication, boundary certifications, the state’s elections, lobbyist registrations, notaries, political action committee registration, and the seal of the State of Utah. The LG’s homepage has a notary public, lobbyist, and elections information search here.
Vermont: The Vermont Secretary of State manages the state’s corporations and business services, professional regulation and elections. Under the Vermont Corporations Division, you may search for telemarketers, business filings, UCC filings, and amusement ride operators. Through the Office of Professional Regulation, you may search for licensees in the state as well as conduct decisions. Conduct decisions can be searched broadly (“all”), chronologically, or by profession. You may search for registered lobbyists, compensation, their photos and reports through the Elections Division, here.
Virginia: The Virginia Secretary of the Commonwealth is responsible for board and commission appointments, authentications, executive clemency, extraditions, notaries public, is a liaison to the state’s Native tribes, and publishes the state organizational chart. They do not oversee the state’s elections or business filings. The Virginia Secretary of the Commonwealth has an online search for lobbyists and notaries public. The Virginia State Corporation Commission has a business and UCC/federal tax lien search.
Washington: The Washington Secretary of State oversees the state’s corporations and their associated filings, elections, charities, and state archives, including libraries. The Washington Secretary of State has a business, charity/fundraiser/trust and trademark search all here on one page – the UCC search is separately handled by the State Department of Licensing and is located here. The Washington Secretary of State also offers an online search for the state’s historical records here, and a catalog of libraries here.
Washington, D.C.: Washington, D.C. is not a state, and therefore does not have a secretary of state. Rather, the Office of the Secretary manages the District’s archives, commissioning of notaries public, and publishing the Register and Municipal Regulations. The Office is also responsible for maintaining official records of mayoral actions such as executive orders, proclamations and directives. This office does not have online search functions, but it does have a map showing the location and information of notaries in the District.
West Virginia: The West Virginia Secretary of State serves as the Chief Election Officer, authorizes and issues licenses to private detectives, investigators and security agencies. They also administer the UCC, the Farm Lien Program, and are responsible for the administration of the Solicitation of Charitable Funds Act. The WV SOS is also responsible for business entity filings. The WV SOS has many different search functions, including one for Code of State rules here, a registers search here, and an executive journal search here. You can search business organizations, charities & disbursements and UCC information all on this page here. You can search commissioned notaries, security licensees, trademarks, marriage celebrant licensees, athletic agents and scrap metal dealers all on this page here.
Wisconsin: Compared to other states, the scope of Wisconsin’s SOS duties is quite limited. They maintain the official acts of the Legislature and the Governor, issue authentications and apostilles, file oaths of office and file deeds for state lands and buildings. You can search oaths by first and last name here, pardons here, and deeds regarding state purchases here. They are not responsible for business entities in the state, elections, or UCC filings.
Wyoming: The Wyoming Secretary of State oversees the administration of numerous matters including: the registration of business entities; statewide elections; lobbyist registrations and filings; ethics filings; campaign finance; securities; notaries public; registered agents; trade names; trademarks; document authentication; and agricultural liens, among other things. They’ve got a business entity search here, a lobbyist search here. They do not have a search function for UCC filings in the state.