​​​​​​​​​​​​​Democracy and the Secretary of State​

Sec. Godlewski with clerks from Barron County.

T​he United States is the greatest country in the world because of our unwavering commitment to democracy. Yet, these principles have been attacked from the spread of disinformation to illegitmate electors submitting falsifi​​​​ed documents​​​​ to Wisconsin’s Secretary of State’s office trying to overturn the will of the people. Everyone, including elected officials, plays an important role in our democracy. 

The Secretary of State has a unique scope in supporting a healthy democracy in Wisconsin. The Secretary:

  • Presidential Election: Affix the Great Seal to the Certificate of Votes for the Presidential Election (See: Wis. Stat. § 7.70)
  • Electoral College: Until 2022: ​Receive and maintain a copy of the electors’ votes from the Electoral College for Wisconsin (See statutes: 3 U.S.C. § 11)
  • US Senate: Countersign the certificate of election for the US Senate (See statute: Wis. Stat. § 7.70(5))​​​​
  • Clerks and Register of Deeds: Maintain and authenticate the signature and seals of all county clerks and register of deeds (See statute: Wis. Stat. § 14.38)
  • Elected Officials and Oaths of Office: Manage and maintain oaths of office for executive, legislative, and judicial elected officials. Those who are required to file their oaths and bonds with the Office must do so in order to begin their duties. (See statutes: Wis. Stat. § 14.38, Wis. Stat. §  19.01(2))
  • Government Operations: Affix the Great Seal to all official acts of the governor and maintain the official records of the executive bran​​ch and the acts of the legislature. (See statute: Wis. Stat. § 14.38)
  • Redistricting Plans: Maintain a certified copy of redistricting plans produced by Counties (See statute: Wis. Stat. § 59.14)
While the Secretary does not administer elections, Secretary Godlewski believes more must be done to protect and strengthen our democracy from supporting our local clerks to building civic engagement, and addressing misinformation. In December of 2023 after fake electors admitted in a court settlement​ they had no authority as electors, Secretary Godlewski called for accounta​bility
Local clerks, whose work ensures effective operations for their communities, are stretched thin, threatened, and these positions can go vacant despite the essential role they play with government operations. Secretary Godlewski led a letter​ with a bipartisan group of her colleagues asking for the Department of Education to clarify that non-partisan election activities such as those performed by clerks could be performed by students in the Federal Work Study program. The administration agreed and responded that work study students could work in clerks offices.

Civics education is at a staggering 13% proficiency with young people - making it more difficult for people to know how to engage in their government, and Wisconsin has been rated as the fourth hardest state to vote. Secretary​ Godlewski sees these challenges as opportunities to strengthen democracy and ensure good government. The Secretary wants to be an advocate and a resource for clerks and local government to help build capacity and introduce the next generation to important government work. As State Treasurer, Secretary Godlewski developed an effective relationship with local treasurers that led to the development of a property tax informational portal and a property tax foreclosure fund. In addition, the Secretary believes we can build civic engagement through education and outreach. As a result, the office launched a partnership with the Dane County Boys and Girls Club to bring civics trivia to their members and is looking for more creative ways to support civic education.​​​​ ​

​​Sec. Godlewski meets with the clerk in the City of Beloit, Wi.Sec. Godlewski speaks to legislators at a Juneteenth event.Sec. Godlewski high fives a student at the Dane County Boys and Girls C lub.

Participate in your Democracy

Every voice matters and is important to a healthy democracy. There are many ways to make your voice heard in government from voting to contacting your elected officials to testifying in a public meeting. Below are a few ways to make sure your voice is heard!