Illinois Secretary of State

Last updated
Secretary of State of Illinois
Seal of Illinois.svg
Jesse White 2011.jpg
Jesse White

since January 11, 1999
Term length 4 years, unlimited term
Inaugural holder Elias Kane
Website Official Website

The Secretary of State of Illinois is one of the six elected executive state offices of the government of Illinois, and one of the 47 secretaries of states in the United States. The Illinois Secretary of State keeps the state records, laws, library, and archives, and is the state's corporation registration, vehicle registration and driver licensing authority. The current Secretary of State is Jesse White, a Democrat who took office in 1999.



The Secretary of State is the keeper of the official records, laws, and Great Seal of Illinois. These duties have remained unchanged since Illinois became a U.S. state in 1818. [1] In addition, the Secretary is the custodian of the Illinois State Capitol. The office is also responsible for administering the laws and procedures concerning the registration of corporations, lobbyists, and notaries public.

The Secretary of State performs other duties prescribed by law. The Secretary oversees the state archive and the state library. The State Library houses more than 5,000,000 items, and other informational resources, and oversees a consortium of academic and regional libraries in the state.

The Secretary of State is third (behind the Lieutenant Governor and Attorney General, respectively) in the line of succession to the office of Governor of Illinois. [2] [3]

By statute, the Illinois Secretary of State is tasked with the duty of issuing licenses to Illinois-registered motor vehicles and their drivers, effectively making the Secretary of State's office the department of motor vehicles, though that phrase is not used in Illinois. Enforcement of these duties has made the Secretary of State's office a key bureau in the enforcement of laws against driving under the influence. Illinois is one of only two states to put the secretary of state in charge of driver services, the other being Michigan.


Secretary of State Police

The Secretary of State Police of Illinois is a statewide police force, established in 1913; it is responsible for enforcing the laws of the Illinois Vehicle Code such as regulating businesses involved with the sale of motor vehicles and vehicle parts. Its main purpose is to protect consumers against fraud through adherence to state statutes.

The Secretary of State Police also investigates identity theft, maintains statewide vehicle inspection stations, investigates statewide vehicle thefts, provides statewide school bus regulation, enforces traffic and parking violations and provides law enforcement to all Secretary of State facilities. [4]

Illinois State Capitol Police

The Secretary of State Police also maintains the Illinois State Capitol Police, responsible for policing the Illinois State Capitol Complex in Springfield, including both the Capitol and 16 surrounding state buildings. The force was created following a 2004 incident in which an unarmed security guard was shot and killed. [5] [6] The force has an authorised strength of 60 officers. [7]


The Secretary of State's office occupies three buildings of the Illinois State Capitol Complex in Springfield. Many of the Secretary of State's workers assigned to motor vehicle and licensing duties work in the Howlett Building, south of the Capitol. The Howlett Building is named after former Secretary of State Michael Howlett. The State Archives are housed in the Norton Building, southwest of the Capitol. The Illinois State Library is located in the Brooks Library, east of the Capitol, which is named for longtime state Poet Laureate Gwendolyn Brooks, winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1950.

In addition, the Secretary of State operates 136 Driver Services license-issuing facilities statewide and maintains its own police force. Established in 1913, their duties include enforcement of the Illinois Vehicle Code on businesses regulated by the Secretary of State and maintaining public safety, traffic control and assisting other law enforcement agencies.


The Secretary of State, to be eligible to take the oath of office, must be a United States citizen of at least 25 years of age, and a resident of Illinois for at least three years preceding the election.

As of 2020, Jesse White, a Democrat, is serving his sixth term as the 37th Secretary of State, the first African-American in the position and the longest-serving Secretary. Before being elected Secretary of State in November 1998, White had been an elected office-holder from Chicago since 1974.

The Secretary of State before White was George H. Ryan, a Republican from Kankakee, Illinois. He held the office from 1991 to 1999, when he became Governor of Illinois. Ryan's tenure as Secretary of State led to his downfall in the "licenses for bribes" scandal: after a major automobile accident in Wisconsin that killed six children, investigators discovered that unqualified truck drivers were receiving drivers licenses in exchange for bribes. Ryan chose not to run for re-election in 2002, and in 2006, he was convicted of fraud, including using his authority as Secretary of State to end his office's internal investigation after it discovered the scheme.

This is a list of all the people who have served as Illinois Territorial Secretary [8] and people who have served as Illinois Secretary of State. [9]

1 Nathaniel Pope 1809-1816
2 Joseph Phillips 1816–1818
1 Elias Kane 1818–1822Democratic-Republican
2 Samuel D. Lockwood 1822–1823Democratic-Republican
3 David Blackwell 1823–1824Democratic-Republican
4 Morris Birkbeck 1824–1825Democratic-Republican
5 George Forquer 1825–1828Democratic-Republican
6 Alexander Pope Field 1829–1840Democratic
7 Stephen A. Douglas 1840–1841Democratic
8 Lyman Trumbull 1841–1843Democratic
9 Thompson Campbell 1843–1846Democratic
10 Horace S. Cooley 1846–1850Democratic
11 David L. Gregg 1850–1853Democratic
12 Alexander Starne 1853–1857Democratic
13 Ozias M. Hatch 1857–1865Republican
14 Sharon Tyndale 1865–1869Republican
15 Edward Rummel 1869–1873Republican
16 George H. Harlow 1873–1881Republican
17 Henry D. Dement 1881–1889Republican
18 Isaac N. Pearson 1889–1893Republican
19 William H. Hinrichsen 1893–1897Democratic
20 James A. Rose 1897–1912Republican
21 Cornelius J. Doyle 1912–1913Republican
22 Harry Woods 1913–1914Democratic
23 Lewis Stevenson 1914–1917Democratic
24 Louis Lincoln Emmerson 1917–1929Republican
25 William J. Stratton 1929–1933Republican
26 Edward J. Hughes 1933–1944Democratic
27 Richard Yates Rowe 1944–1945Republican
28 Edward J. Barrett 1945–1953Democratic
29 Charles F. Carpentier 1953–1964Republican
30 William H. Chamberlain 1964–1965Democratic
31 Paul Powell 1965–1970Democratic
32 John W. Lewis Jr. 1970–1973Republican
33 Michael Howlett 1973–1977Democratic
34 Alan J. Dixon 1977–1981Democratic
35 Jim Edgar 1981–1991Republican
36 George Ryan 1991–1999Republican
37 Jesse White 1999–presentDemocratic

Seal of Illinois

The official motto of the state of Illinois is "State Sovereignty - National Union". The Illinois Secretary of State in 1867, Sharon Tyndale, as the keeper of the Great Seal of Illinois, had it re-engraved so that the word "sovereignty" was upside down. This 1867 seal redesign continues in use to this day, and can be seen, among other places, as the principal device on the flag of Illinois.

See also

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  1. Divisions
  2. "Constitution of the State of Illinois". Illinois General Assembly . Retrieved August 22, 2019.
  3. "Illinois Compiled Statutes 15 ILCS 5 — Governor Succession Act". Illinois General Assembly . Retrieved August 23, 2019.
  4. Secretary of State Official Website
  5. O'Connor, John (25 May 2011). "Capitol police short-handed". Daily Herald. Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  6. "Man held after guard killed at Ill. Capitol". NBC News. 20 September 2004. Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  7. Finke, Doug (26 October 2019). "2004 shooting led to boost in Illinois Capitol security". Journal Star. Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  8. Howlett, Michael J. (August 1977). Keepers of the Seal: a History of the Secretaries of State of Illinois and How Their Office Grew. Springfield: State of Illinois.
  9. Kestenbaum, Lawrence. "The Political Graveyard: Illinois: Secretaries of State". Retrieved 2018-07-29.