The Pennsylvania Department of State is one of the oldest agencies in the nation, with roots that reach back nearly a century before the Revolutionary War. It was in 1680 that William Penn petitioned Charles II of England for land in America. The King agreed, and in 1681, he affixed his signature on the Charter of Pennsylvania.
In 1682, Penn drafted his First Frame of Government, establishing four committees, the first of which was the forerunner of the modern-day Department of State. William Markham was named the first Secretary of the Province, the title that was used for more than 90 years.
After the Revolutionary War, Timothy Matlack became the first person to hold the newly established title of Secretary of the Commonwealth.
It was not until 1919 that the agency, then known as the Department of the Secretary of the Commonwealth, was divided into bureaus. Over the years, the bureau structure has been maintained, although the specific bureaus have been reorganized and redefined several times.
Today, the Secretary of the Commonwealth is appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate. The Secretary is Pennsylvania’s Chief Election Official and a member of the Governor’s Executive Board. The Secretary is also the keeper of the Great Seal of the Commonwealth and authenticates government documents through use of the seal.
The Department protects the public's health and safety by licensing more than one million business and health professionals; promotes the integrity of the electoral process; supports economic development through corporate registrations and transactions; maintains registration and financial information for thousands of charities, and sanctions professional boxing, kick-boxing, wrestling and mixed martial arts.
The current Secretary is Pedro A. Cortés
. Now serving his second term, Cortés is the longest serving Secretary of State in Pennsylvania history (2003-2010, 2015-present).