About the Department of State (DOS)

Our goal is to provide accurate, courteous, and timely service for all Pennsylvanians. 

Our Mission 

The Pennsylvania Department of State, led by the Secretary of the Commonwealth, is responsible for ensuring the integrity of the electoral process, providing the necessary infrastructure for economic development through corporate registrations, and safeguarding the health and safety of the public through professional licensure. We strengthen democracy by overseeing free, fair, and accurate elections while performing public outreach to improve voter education and participation. To maintain public trust and protect Pennsylvanians, we enforce regulatory policies that uphold the highest standards of ethics and competence in professional and occupational licensing, charitable fundraising, and contact sports such as wrestling.

Secretary of the Commonwealth Al Schmidt

Gov. Josh Shapiro appointed Al Schmidt as Acting Secretary of the Commonwealth on Jan. 17, 2023, and Schmidt officially became Secretary on June 29, 2023. Prior to his appointment, Schmidt was president and chief executive officer at the Committee of Seventy, a nonprofit, nonpartisan good-government organization focused on strengthening democracy and combatting political corruption.

Before joining the Committee of Seventy, Schmidt served for 10 years as a Philadelphia City Commissioner. As a commissioner, Schmidt was one of three members on the bipartisan Board of Elections, where he was vice chairman. Since first being elected as city commissioner in November 2011, Schmidt worked to modernize election operations, improve efficiency, and bring greater integrity to the election process.  

Secretary Schmidt was also a senior performance analyst at the nonpartisan U.S. Government Accountability Office, where he conducted performance audits of federal programs on behalf of Democratic and Republican members of the U.S. House and Senate. He also served as a policy analyst for the Presidential Commission on Holocaust Assets in the United States. 

Originally from Pittsburgh, Schmidt holds a doctorate in history from Brandeis University and a bachelor's degree in history from Allegheny College.


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.