California's Secretary of State and Essential Functions of Government
Caleb Lyon gave the following description of the Great Seal when it was proposed during California's Constitutional Convention of 1849:
"Around the bend of the ring are represented thirty-one stars, being the number of States of which the Union will consist upon the admission of California. The foreground figure represents the goddess Minerva having sprung full grown from the brain of Jupiter. She is introduced as a type of the political birth of the State of California, without having gone through the probation of a territory. At her feet crouches a grizzly bear feeding upon the clusters from a grape vine, emblematic of the peculiar characteristics of the country. A miner is engaged with his rocker and bowl at his side, illustrating the golden wealth of the Sacramento, upon whose waters are seen shipping, typical of commercial greatness; and the snow-clad peaks of the Sierra Nevada make up the background, while above is the is the Greek motto 'Eureka' (I have found) applying either to the principle involved in the admission of the State, or the success of the miner at work."
The official design of the Great Seal was not codified into state law until 1937. Prior to that time, many different versions of the Seal appeared on the letterhead of various state agencies, such as the version shown here.
California Secretary of State March Fong Eu is shown here assisting First Lady Betty Ford with the use of the Great Seal Press housed by the Secretary of State. The press was manufactured by the Hoe Company in the early 1850s, and is commonly referred to as the "Inca Press," because the figure on the press is said to represent that of an Inca Indian Prince. Today, although the Inca Press is no longer used, it remains on display in the Secretary of State's Office.
A gold decal with the impression of the Great Seal, similar to the one shown here, is now used instead of the "Inca Press." All commissions, pardons, and other public documents that require the signature of the Governor, with the attestation of the Secretary of State certifying his or her signature, have the Great Seal affixed to them.
On March 3, 1966, Secretary of State Frank M. Jordan asked master quilter Pine Eisfeller to reproduce the Great Seal of the State of California after seeing her beaded replica of the San Mateo County Seal. Eisfeller used colored photographs of a stained glass state seal, which had once hung in the ceiling of the House of Representatives, as inspiration for her beaded reproduction made with more than 87,000 colored beads. When completed, the beaded replica was presented to Governor Ronald Reagan on July 2, 1968, and in turn given to the Secretary of State for safe keeping in the State Archives.
Charles Forrest Curry (1858 – 1930)
Secretary of State 1899 – 1910
Born on March 14, 1858 in Naperville, Illinois, Charles Forrest Curry came to San Francisco with his parents in 1873. For some time he worked in the agriculture, mining, cattle, and lumber businesses. He served as a member of the State Assembly in 1887 and 1888, was admitted to the bar of San Francisco in 1888, and was then the Superintendent of the San Francisco Station B post office from 1890 to 1894. From 1894 to 1898, Curry served as clerk for the city and county of San Francisco.
Curry was elected to the Office of Secretary of State in 1898. He is seated in the center foreground of this 1899 photograph of the Secretary of State offices in California's state capitol building.
Elected Secretary of State for three consecutive terms, Curry served during the early 20th century, when the Progressive Movement was gaining strength in California and in the nation's capital. Exceedingly popular, Curry attempted to win the Republican nomination for Governor in 1910, but lost by a small margin to Hiram Johnson, the more Progressive Republican. Curry went on to serve nine successive terms as U.S Representative for California's 3rd District from 1913 until his death in 1930.
Frank Chester Jordan (1860 – 1940)
Secretary of State 1911 – 1940
Frank C. Jordan was born on April 3, 1860 in Shasta County. At the age of twenty-four he served as secretary to State Senator, Henry Blooman. He was elected County Clerk of Alameda in 1894 and 1898 and as Clerk of the California Supreme Court in 1902. He moved to Auburn, Placer County in 1906 and lived there until his death in 1940.
In 1910, Frank C. Jordan was nominated as a Republican candidate for the office of Secretary of State in California's first direct primary election. He was undefeated as the incumbent in seven successive elections with little opposition. Jordan's twenty-nine consecutive years in office gave him a longer record of service than any other Secretary of State in the nation up to that time. Jordan's long tenure as Secretary of State was highly praised for his impartiality and the consistent efficiency and openness with which he led his office, known as "the office of the open door."
Jordan is pictured here with his son and future Secretary of State, Frank M. Jordan, who wears his World War I uniform.
Frank Morrill Jordan (1888 – 1970)
Secretary of State 1943 – 1970
Born in Alameda, California in 1888, Frank M. Jordan was the son of former Secretary of State, Frank C. Jordan. He worked in the mining industry in Shasta County and Arizona, and for the Automobile Club of Southern California from 1911 to 1917. He served in World War I, and afterwards operated his own general insurance business.
Elected for the first time in 1942, Jordan was re-elected for six successive terms serving a total of twenty-seven years as Secretary of State. Like his father before him, he continued the "open-door policy" providing access to the public during business hours.
Adapting to the many changes occurring during his term, Jordan sponsored legislation to modernize the State Archives, as discussed in this exhibit's "California State Archives" section. In 1965, he was the first Secretary of State in the U.S. to use computers to process the work of the Uniform Commercial Code Division, and to tabulate election returns. Jordan also sponsored legislation to consolidate the separate Primary Presidential election with the regular Primary, thus saving California taxpayers millions of dollars every four years.
Edmund G. Brown Jr. (1938 –)
Secretary of State 1971 – 1975
Born in San Francisco on April 7, 1938, Edmund G. "Jerry" Brown attended the University of Santa Clara, the Sacred Heart Novitiate, and the University of California at Berkeley from which he graduated in 1961. He received his law degree from Yale Law School in 1964 and worked as a clerk at the California Supreme Court, and later for a private law firm in Los Angeles.
In this 1974 photograph, Jerry Brown is pictured with his father and former California Governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown.
Brown was elected California Secretary of State in 1970. During his term, he sponsored legislation requiring the disclosure of campaign and lobbying activities, known as the Political Reform Act of 1974. He exposed President Nixon's use of falsely notarized documents to earn large tax deductions. He also argued before the state Supreme Court and won cases against Gulf, Mobile, and Standard Oil for election law violations.
This broadside, published by the California Citizens' "NO on Proposition 22" Committee in 1972, highlights controversy over that year's Farm Labor Initiative Proposition. The proposition set forth "permissible and prohibited labor relation activities of agricultural employers, employees, and labor organizations." Brown filed suit to have the proposition removed from the ballot. He claimed that massive fraud and misrepresentation were used to qualify the initiative for the ballot. The proposition was allowed to remain on the ballot for the General Election of November 7, 1972, but was defeated 4,612,642 votes to 3,348,176.
March Fong Eu (1922 – )
Secretary of State 1975 – 1994
The first woman and Asian American to be elected to the office of Secretary of State, March Fong Eu was born in Oakdale, California on March 22, 1922. Educated at the University of California at Berkeley, Eu received her Master's degree from Mills College and a Doctorate in Education from Stanford University.
Eu served as State Assembly member for the 15th District from 1966 to 1974, where she gained statewide recognition for her efforts on behalf of consumers and for education reform. Elected Secretary of State in 1974, Eu went on to win re-election four more times, serving almost twenty years in the office.
As Secretary, Eu emphasized fraud-free elections, efficient election reporting, preservation of and access to the state's historical records, and international marketing of California products. Additionally, Eu broke ground for a new building and centralized location for the office of the Secretary of State.
In 1994, Eu resigned from office when President Bill Clinton appointed her as U.S. Ambassador to Micronesia.
Bill Jones (1949 –)
Secretary of State 1995 – 2003
William L. “Bill” Jones was born on December 20, 1949 in Coalinga, California and graduated from Fresno State University in 1971 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Agribusiness and Plant Science. Jones was elected to the State Assembly in 1982. He served for twelve years, introducing such bills as the three strikes law for repeat offenders.
In 1994, Jones was elected Secretary of State. He ultimately served for two consecutive terms from 1995 to 2003.
As Secretary of State, Bill Jones sought to achieve one hundred percent voter participation with zero tolerance for fraud, instituting numerous voter outreach programs. Jones also developed a website with comprehensive information about many of the Secretary of State’s services, and launched one of the first websites in the nation to carry live election returns.
As Secretary, Jones also established the award-winning California Museum to inspire and educate the general public and thousands of school children about California history.
Alex Padilla (1973 – )
Secretary of State 2015 –
Alex Padilla was sworn in as California's Secretary of State on January 5, 2015, and is the first Latino to be elected to the constitutional office. Born on March 22, 1973 in Pacoima, California, Padilla attended public schools and graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. He worked for Hughes Aircraft in Southern California and later was a graduate of the Coro Fellowship Program in Leadership and Public Affairs.
Padilla served on the Los Angeles City Council from 1999 to 2006, representing the east San Fernando community where he grew up and serving as Council President from 2001 to 2006.
He was elected to the California State Senate, representing District 20, from 2006 to 2014, establishing a diverse and groundbreaking record including legislation to address issues relating to health, gang activity, education, and transportation.
As Secretary of State, Alex Padilla is committed to modernizing the office, increasing voter registration and participation, and strengthening voting rights.
The initial holdings of the Archives included Spanish and Mexican land grant documents that helped establish property rights in the new state. Such land grants often included hand-drawn sketch maps called diseños, like the one shown here and in the next panel. This diseño shows the Mexican land grant "Cyuama" in what became Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, granted to Cesario Lataillade in 1846.
In order to comply with the new Public Archives law and obtain these important records, Secretary of State William Van Voorhies wrote to California’s former military governor in Monterey on April 11, 1850, requesting that he secure all Spanish and Mexican documents and maps in his possession. These archives were to be sent to San Jose, then the state capital, and were needed to honor previous legitimate land claims in accordance with the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which transferred California to the United States after the Mexican – American War.
This diseño depicts a Mexican grant for land near Mission San Buenaventura. Petitioners Juan de Jesus and Jose Gabriel submitted the application in 1845.
Many of the diseños proved to be problematic evidence for land claims after statehood as identifying rivers and landmarks had often changed over the years. The U.S. Public Land Commission, established in 1851 to resolve land claim discrepancies, surveyed and verified existing claims based on the diseños. In 1866, Senate Bill 77 appropriated $8,000 to create certified copies of all land grant documents in English and Spanish to be deposited with the Secretary of State.
Collecting and preserving California’s history had begun.
As the Secretary of State’s office became more congested with records, the need for a secure location for the archives became apparent. In 1899, the State Legislature approved a “moisture-proof, fire-proof, and burglar-proof” vault to be built in the basement of the capitol building, "for storage and care of such archives as may be delivered to [the Secretary of State] by the various State officials." This blueprint shows the general dimensions of the vault.
The vault key, also shown here, was left in a desk drawer outside the vault. During this period, members of the public were allowed to retrieve documents themselves, and hundreds of papers unfortunately went missing.
For almost forty years after statehood, the Secretary of State himself was charged with protecting and preserving California's historic government documents. However, as the new state grew and its government expanded, the task of organizing and administering the Public Archives grew unmanageable for an official with many other duties.
In 1889, the same bill that funded the construction of a new vault also created and funded the position of "Keeper of the Archives." In addition to preserving the huge volume of records, the Keeper was required to index and arrange them in order to “find any one of them readily.” The first known index of the archives, however, was not completed until 1915. The Keeper remained a solitary position until 1947 when additional clerks were added.
By the turn of the twentieth century, the Archives' vault in the state capitol building was overflowing. During a 1914 inspection, members of the American Historical Association noted the “discreditable congestion” in the Archives’ vault and surrounding rooms at the state capitol.
It was not until the 1930s, however, that the Secretary of State began to transfer the overflow of documents to a warehouse in downtown Sacramento. Although it provided more space, unfortunately this warehouse, built in 1915, had no security or temperature controls. Today's archivists would deem this warehouse unsuitable for archival storage.
California Secretary of State Frank M. Jordan (pictured here reviewing the Journal of California's first Constitutional Convention in 1849) personally sponsored several bills in the mid-1940s in order to increase funding for the Archives. Assembly Bill 1028 of 1947 was the first of these bills. Its passage created the Central Record Depository within the Office of the Secretary of State and added more money to the Archives budget which, in turn, allowed for the hiring of more professional staff.
In 1949, Archivist Paul O’Brien succeeded the previous "Keeper of the Archives" Bart Greer after his over 30 years of service. O'Brien served as the Keeper of the Archives until 1966. He is shown here in the photograph at the left, circa 1960, reviewing a volume of the Secretary of State's "Records of Corporations."
Dr. J.N. Bowman, a University of California, Berkeley professor of history and expert on the Spanish Land Grants (far right, top), joined the growing archives staff in 1948 as Historian, and greatly increased its caliber of scholarship and professionalism. After Bowman retired in 1955 (the approximate date of the photograph on the right), Dr. William Davis, another UC Berkeley professor of history of the American West (far right, bottom), was hired as Historian and continued the process of professionalizing the Archives.
The Archives moved to the State Printing Plant at 10th and O streets in 1955. The building, which featured colored tiles like the ones shown at the left, provided expanded storage areas and rooms dedicated to professional archival activities. Row upon row of metal filing cabinets and shelving housed over 23,000 cubic feet of documents. The Archives remains at this location today, although under the roof of a new building.
Despite repeated efforts to improve the old State Printing Plant building for use as an archival facility, its physical constraints were no match for the constant influx of records. Also, during this period, the various divisions of the Secretary of State were located in different buildings in downtown Sacramento. In 1989, the State Legislature approved Senate Bill 638, which funded construction of the current Secretary of State and California State Archives complex, and reunited the various divisions under one roof. The California State Archives moved into its new facility in 1995.
Today, the Archives Division maintains six floors of stacks containing records; preservation, imaging, and processing labs; a research room; an exhibit gallery; and an artifact collection. The Archives holds over 120,000 cubic feet of state government records and is home to some of its most historic documents, including the 1849 and 1879 State Constitutions; all original laws; and records of the State Legislature, recent governors, and the state's Supreme and Appellate Courts.
Honoring the state's first statute, the State Archives continues to safely keep and preserve records documenting California's unique history.
Motor Vehicle Registration
As automobile ownership in the United States grew, states began to develop laws for managing and regulating this new form of transportation. California was no exception, with Chapter 612, Statutes of 1905 requiring the registration of every motor vehicle and every chauffeur with the Secretary of State. Such registration included the assignment of a registration number and the issuance of either a circular metal seal to affix to the outside of the registered vehicle, or an oval metal badge to pin to the registered chauffeur’s clothing.
Shown here is the first page of the Secretary of State's Motor Vehicle Department’s Register of Chauffeurs, showing the first registrations in 1905. Chauffeurs were required to state their name and address, provide the trade name and type of motor power of the automobile they were to operate, and pay a registration fee of two dollars. Motor vehicle registration required the owner to submit similar information and fees.
The rapidly growing number of cars in California, however, quickly taxed the new Motor Vehicle Department’s limited resources. In Secretary of State Frank C. Jordan’s biennial report for the years 1910-1912, he indicated that “the volume of business transacted in the Motor Vehicle Department during the past two fiscal years is twice as great as that handled during the previous two fiscal years. With the present force it is impossible to adequately handle it, and the necessity for more clerks is apparent.”
By 1913, the responsibility for registering motor vehicles had transferred to a new Motor Vehicle Division within the Department of Engineering and, by 1931, (after a few more departmental shuffles) the Department of Motor Vehicles became its own stand-alone agency.
The now-inactive trademark shown here was registered with the Secretary of State's Office the same year that motor vehicle and chauffeur registration began, in 1905.
Articles of Incorporation
“Before a corporation, either foreign or domestic, can operate in California, its articles of incorporation must be filed with the Secretary of State.”
~ 1975 California Blue Book
Chapter 128, Statutes of 1850 prescribed rules for filing articles of incorporation with the Secretary of State. This law covered eight categories of companies, including insurance, railroad, manufacturing, and mining companies. Chapter 65, Statutes of 1858 added corporations engaged in any species of trade or commerce, foreign or domestic. Subsequent statutes provided for the formation of a corporation for any lawful purpose.
Today, the Business Entities Section processes filings, maintains records, and provides information to the public relating to a variety of domestic and foreign business entities, including corporations, limited liability companies, limited partnerships, limited liability partnerships, general partnerships, and unincorporated associations.
The Panama Pacific International Exposition Company was incorporated in 1910 to assist with organizing, constructing, and administering a world's fair of the same name.
A devastating earthquake in April 1906 destroyed much of San Francisco. However, less than ten years later, the city hosted a massive World's Fair, the 1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition. Organized to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal, the Exposition also showcased the city's recovery and various improvements made since the disaster.
The Panama Pacific International Exposition ran from February to December, 1915, constructed on a 625-acre site in what is now known as the Marina District in San Francisco. The photograph here shows the Exposition's centerpiece, the glittering Tower of Jewels. It stood 435 feet tall and was decorated with over 100,000 faceted cut glass jewels called Novagems.
Over 18 million people attended the Panama Pacific International Exposition during its ten months of operation. Eleven large palaces (including the Palace of Horticulture, shown here on the bottom left) and the Festival Hall (upper right) provided the fair's primary exhibition areas.
A wide variety of entertainments awaited fair goers, including the exhibitions in the palaces; State Buildings to highlight progress within the United States; an Avenue of Nations with various international pavilions showcasing foreign lands; wide boulevards and gardens; scientific and educational displays; and a recreational "Zone" with carnival concessions, rides, and games.
The Exposition closed on December 4, 1915. The Panama Pacific International Exposition Company was then responsible for dismantling the fair grounds. To recoup some of their costs, the Company sold some of the smaller buildings, fixtures, equipment, and plants to the highest bidders. Most of the fair's structures were designed to be temporary, built of plaster and chicken wire. They therefore rapidly deteriorated, and those that were too big to sell were gradually torn down. The last remaining building of the Exposition is the Palace of Fine Arts, rebuilt in 1965.
The Panama Pacific International Exposition Company voluntarily dissolved in 1920, having served its purpose in running a wildly successful World's Fair.
California began registering certain container brands in 1861, but trademark registration for all types of products commenced in 1863 with the passage of the Trademark Registration Act (Chapter 129, Statutes of 1863). Serving as the first general trademark law in the United States and preceding federal legislation by seven years, California’s new law gave the responsibility of trademark registration to the Secretary of State. As a result, applicants were required to file with the Secretary of State a claim for exclusive use of a trademark or name, along with a corresponding copy or description of the trademark.
The Diamond Milling Company registered this trademark for flour sack labels and cereal product packaging in 1905.
In the first ten years of registration, 191 trademarks were registered with the Secretary of State. In the decades that followed, the Secretary of State continued to register trademarks while also expanding registration to various other types and brands, including farm and ranch names, service marks, and linen marks. Today, those doing business in California still register their trademarks with the Secretary of State, albeit at a much higher rate: in the 2014/2015 fiscal year alone, the Business Programs Division registered 1,055 trademarks and service marks.
The following panels show a few examples of trademarks (now inactive) filed with the Secretary of State's Office over the past century. To view California's inactive trademarks dating from 1861-1900, please visit California's Old Series Trademarks.
Russell Wendell, Jr. registered the words "Pup n' Taco" for a chain of small restaurants in 1968. His father, Russell Wendell, Sr., opened the first in 1965, serving hot dogs, tacos, hamburgers, and other classic American diner meals to southern Californians. The chain spread from California into New Mexico and Colorado, eventually consisting of more than 60 stores. Most of these restaurants were sold in the mid-1980s.
For the first 117 years of statehood, California's governor was tasked with appointing and commissioning notaries public in proportion to the population and business needs of California. From 1850 to 1967, before the power to appoint notaries public transferred to the Secretary of State, the requirements for notary commissions were very simple: according to the 1850 law, the individual appointed needed to take an oath of office and execute a bond of $5,000. By 1943, the appointee also had to be at least 21 years of age, be a citizen of the United States and of California, and have resided in the county for which the appointment was made for six months. No kind of qualifying examination was given to applicants, and no provision in the statutes existed for the governor to rescind existing commissions.
In this 1888 letter, J.E. Fischer requests reappointment as a notary in Santa Clara County from Governor Waterman.
On August 14, 1967, the responsibility of appointing and commissioning notaries public officially transferred to the Secretary of State. Recognizing the need for more robust requirements and the ability to oversee notary public commissions throughout the state, Chapter 1139, Statutes of 1967 expanded the law to include several significant changes. The Secretary of State was given the power to revoke or suspend a commission, and the new law additionally required a commissioned notary to have 1) resided in California for at least 12 months, 2) demonstrated good moral character, and 3) completed a written questionnaire.
In the years that followed this 1967 law, Secretaries of State Edmund G. Brown, Jr. and March Fong Eu discovered that further reform was needed to protect California consumers from the improper execution of notarial services. Today, though the minimum age for a notary public commission has dropped to 18 years old, applicants must fulfill a number of requirements before attaining the position: they must be a legal resident of California; pass a background check including fingerprinting; complete a six-hour notary public education course; pass a written exam prescribed by the Secretary of State; take an oath; and execute a bond of $15,000.
Uniform Commercial Code
Adopted first in such states as Pennsylvania and Massachusetts in the mid-1950s, the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC) sought to bring together and make easily accessible the various and scattered codes relating to commercial law. It would take years for California to follow suit, but on January 8, 1963, Governor Edmund G. Brown approved a UCC that had been shaped to fit the Golden State’s unique needs. Scheduled to take effect on January 1, 1965, the law appointed the Secretary of State as the UCC’s central filing office.
Faced with a tremendous volume of filings, the Secretary of State’s office determined that a first-of-its-kind fully-automated system would be necessary to successfully implement such a large-scale centralized filing system. As a result, the Secretary of State’s office worked tirelessly with IBM to implement a pioneering UCC filing system in the year and a half allotted.
In this 1965 photograph, Secretary of State Frank M. Jordan (middle), Deputy Secretary of State Rico Nannini (left) and an unidentified individual review printouts from the new IBM 1440 system developed for UCC.
Early California voters used paper ballot tickets such as these to cast their votes, rather than the individually marked ballots of today. Political parties often printed and distributed these ballots, also known as "party tickets." Under this system of voting, the ballots themselves became campaign tools, often including slogans to sway voters.
One of the most influential elections in California's history occurred shortly after Hiram Johnson was elected as the state's Governor.
Hiram Warren Johnson, shown here in approximately 1912, played a pivotal role in California politics for over thirty years. He served as Governor from 1911 until 1917, and as one of California’s United States Senators from 1917 to 1945.
Johnson’s administration was the driving force behind progressive reforms aimed at reducing government corruption and promoting direct democracy. He supported many of the constitutional amendments on the ballot for the 1911 special election, campaigning for such changes as the initiative, referendum, and recall to give citizens a stronger voice in government. Johnson helped found the national Progressive Party in 1912. He was reelected as Governor in 1914, but successfully ran for the U.S. Senate two years later. Johnson served five terms as Senator, supporting progressive reforms as well as isolationist policies. He died in Bethesda Naval Hospital on August 6, 1945.
Hiram Johnson's early progressive efforts as Governor resulted in the Special Election of October 10, 1911. In this pivotal election, California's voters approved a variety of sweeping reforms that forever changed the state's political landscape.
The reform measures on the 1911 ballot reflected the ideas of the Progressive Movement, then a strong presence in California. The approved measures included women’s suffrage (proposed Constitutional Amendment, or CA, No. 4 on this Certification of Election Results); the initiative and referendum (proposed CA No. 7); recall of public officials (proposed CA No. 8); and a strengthening of the California Railroad Commission (proposed CA Nos. 12, 14, and 16).
In 1911, California became the tenth state to adopt the initiative and referendum. Passage of this proposition meant that Californians could place issues directly on the ballot, bypassing the State Legislature.
Since that year, California’s citizens have placed more than 350 initiatives on the ballot. Voters have passed approximately one-third of these measures. The Secretary of State certifies the proposed ballot initiatives, and prints and distributes ballot pamphlets describing the various measures.
Approved initiatives generally go into effect the day after the election. They are not subject to the Governor’s veto, nor can they be amended or repealed by the Legislature without a vote of approval from the electorate.
The Initiative Measure shown here, certified by Secretary of State Frank C. Jordan in 1914, proposed an eight-hour work day. The initiative qualified for inclusion on the ballot as Proposition 3, but was ultimately defeated at the polls.
The Special Election of 1911 also resulted in women gaining the right to vote in the Golden State. Suffragettes and their supporters had repeatedly petitioned the state’s legislature to grant women the vote for several decades. Not until the sweeping progressive reforms in 1911 (the same year that Equality Brand Tea, at left, was trademarked), however, did these activists see their efforts rewarded.
That year, the State Legislature placed proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 4 on the ballot, giving voters the opportunity to express their opinion on the suffrage issue. The amendment passed (albeit by a very slim margin of only 3,587 votes), and women won the right to vote in California. Prominent women’s rights activist Alice Stone Blackwell called this victory “the greatest single advance that the suffrage movement in America has yet made.”
The Secretary of State's role relating to elections was greatly expanded after 1911, increasing so greatly that Secretary Frank C. Jordan suggested a special Bureau of Elections be established to handle the additional workload of a larger electorate, processing initiatives, and responding to a massive volume of correspondence relating to various new election laws. It was not until the early 1970s, however, that a separate Elections Division was established in the Secretary of State's office.
Voting in California has evolved tremendously since the first elections of 1849. From lists of voters and handwritten tallies, to the use of slate ballots and ballot boxes, to automatic voting machines (like that illustrated at left, in 1962) and modernized systems, advances in technology have transformed the way that we cast our votes on Election Day. The Secretary of State is responsible for testing and certifying such official voting equipment and systems for security, accuracy, and accessibility.
Today, the Secretary of State's Elections Division is busy for many months before and after an election. In addition to ensuring that all election laws and campaign disclosure requirements are enforced, and that all voting equipment (like the 1962 model shown here) is functional and accurate, the division certifies official lists of candidates; tracks and certifies ballot initiatives; and maintains a statewide database of all registered voters.
After each election, the division compiles election returns received from all county clerks and produces a Statement of Vote, which is the official and final tally of the election results. Furthermore, the division educates citizens about their voting rights, issues voter information ballot pamphlets in ten languages, and promotes voter registration and participation.
The first attempt by state officials to prevent the influence of money in political campaigns was the 1893 "Act to Promote Purity of Elections." The law required that candidates and their committees file detailed statements of campaign expenditures with the Secretary of State, such as the one shown here.
The 1893 Purity of Elections law did not apply to proposition campaigns or powerful lobbyists, such as those employed by the Southern Pacific Railroad. Under Governor Hiram Johnson's leadership, new laws increased the Railroad Commission's authority and the power to fix passenger and freight rates, curtailing the railroad's political influence and monopolistic practices.
Additionally, legislation was passed in 1921, which required financial disclosure by individuals or organizations supporting or opposing statewide propositions. However, the 1921 bill did not address the financial disclosure of lobbying activities, including attempts to influence the decisions of government officials. This left an opening for corrupt lobbying activities, best illustrated by Artie Samish, one of the most powerful lobbyists in the state's history.
Artie Samish began his lobbying business in the early 1930s. Special interests could secretly give unlimited amounts of money to elect favored candidates to do their bidding. Samish bragged that he could tell in an instant whether a lawmaker needed "a baked potato, a girl, or money." As the self-anointed "governor of the legislature," Samish ruled over what was commonly called the "Third House," which referred to the powerful influence lobbyists wielded.
Samish's public boasting eventually contributed to his downfall when he made the mistake of relating his activities to a reporter for Collier's magazine in August of 1949. Posing as a ventriloquist with a dummy on his knee, which he called Mr. Legislature, Samish claimed, "That's my legislature."
Reaction to the Collier's magazine articles was swift and explosive. Governor Earl Warren stated that "the Legislature should act decisively to remove every sinister influence surrounding it – every pipeline of special favor."
Citizens and lawmakers alike appealed to the governor to pass laws that would restrict and regulate lobbying, as can be seen in these examples of correspondence received by the Governor's Office in 1949. In response, Governor Warren signed legislation in 1950 to regulate lobbying practices and require the disclosure of its financial activities to the state legislature.
Unfortunately for Samish, all the attention also alerted federal authorities. When the Internal Revenue Service looked into his activities, he was convicted of tax evasion which cost him over $1 million in back taxes and penalties. In 1955, he began a 26-month prison sentence. After serving his sentence, Samish lived quietly in San Francisco, and retired with a pension from one of his former clients, the California Brewers Institute, until he died in 1974 at the age of 76.
Campaign and lobbying disclosure laws remained in place with a few amendments until the early 1970s. Then, in 1972, the Watergate scandal rocked the nation. As reports of government corruption at the highest levels began to circulate, interest revived in major reform and government transparency.
In an attempt to address the types of political corruption that led to Watergate, then-Secretary of State Jerry Brown and members of his administration began the process of writing sweeping legislation to update the laws governing campaign and lobbying activities. In 1973, Brown's staff joined forces with the People's Lobby and Common Cause, two citizens' action groups who sponsored and circulated the resulting reform initiative, in time to place it on the following June primary's ballot as Proposition 9, the "Political Reform Act of 1974."
The "Political Reform Act" was approved by almost seventy percent of voters. The new law included new and stricter requirements for reporting campaign and lobbying activities. Earlier laws had required lobbying disclosures be filed with the State Legislature, whose members dealt directly with lobbyists. The new law mandated that lobbying disclosures now be filed with the Secretary of State.
Today, the responsibilities of the Secretary of State's Political Reform Division include administering the most fundamental purpose of the 1974 reform law: ensuring that "receipts and expenditures in election campaigns should be fully and truthfully disclosed in order that the voters may be fully informed and that the activities of lobbyists should be regulated and their finances disclosed…."
Additionally, the Division registers state and local committees connected to state elections, as well as lobbying firms and employers. It processes the filings of all campaign and lobbying expenditures and provides public access to all disclosure documents.
Today, the California Secretary of State's office comprises nearly 500 people who are dedicated to making government more transparent and accessible in the areas of elections, business, political campaigning, legislative advocacy, and historical records.
The current Secretary of State, Alex Padilla, is dedicated to modernizing the office, using twenty-first century technologies to provide greater access to public records and more transparency in state government. For instance, the new Power Search Tool allows the public to quickly and easily access campaign and lobbying finance data. A new on-line voter registration process has made it easier to participate in the Golden State's elections, while efforts to digitize various collections held by the California State Archives provide world-wide access to the state's historical records via the internet.
To learn more about the California Secretary of State's office, please visit www.sos.ca.gov.
All images from records of the California State Archives.
Curation of physical exhibit by Lisa Prince, Elizabeth Behnam, Kira Dres, and Ignacio Sanchez, with assistance by Juan Ramos and Kevin Turner (2015)
Digital adaptation by Jessica Herrick (2016)
Imaging by Jessica Herrick, Lisa Prince, Brian Guido, and Thaddeus McCurry
Editing by Rebecca Wendt, Jacqueline Kinney, and Bill Mabie
California State Archives
A Division of the California Secretary of State's Office
1020 O Street
Sacramento, CA 95814
Reference Telephone: (916) 653-2246
General Information: (916) 653-7715
Fax: (916) 653-7363