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About Secretary Of State Nellie M. Gorbea

Rhode Island Secretary of State Nellie M. Gorbea made history when she was sworn in on January 6, 2015, becoming the first Hispanic elected to statewide office in New England. She has rapidly emerged on the national scene as a leader who is taking on some of the toughest issues and getting results, leading the way for other states across the country.

Already in her first term, she has:
  • Worked to pass automatic voter registration, making Rhode Island the ninth state in the country to do so, and increased civic engagement by instituting online voter registration;
  • Improved the elections system by acquiring new state-of-the-art voting machines making Rhode Island one of the few states in the country to have new voting equipment at all polling places for the fall 2016 elections;
  • Ushered in tough legislation to increase government transparency, crack down on violations of lobbying rules and make Rhode Island’s lobbying registration system a model for the nation;
  • Launched a new online Business Portal to make it easier for entrepreneurs to start businesses in the state;
  • Initiated the development of a new State Archives and Rhode Island History Exhibition Center that will help Rhode Islanders understand and appreciate their state’s great history.

Prior to her election as Secretary of State, Gorbea headed a leading organization working to make housing affordable in Rhode Island, served as Deputy Secretary of State (2002 to 2006) and led the creation of the Rhode Island Latino Civic Fund.

Originally from Puerto Rico, Gorbea is a graduate of Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School for Public and International Affairs and holds a master’s degree in public administration from Columbia University. She and her husband, Steve D’Hondt, and their three daughters live in North Kingstown.

About The Department Of State

Our Vision

The Rhode Island Department of State is a modern gateway connecting Rhode Islanders and their government.

Our Mission

The Rhode Island Department of State engages and empowers all Rhode Islanders by making government more accessible and transparent, encouraging civic pride, enhancing commerce and ensuring that elections are fair, fast and accurate.

Duties of the Secretary of State

The Secretary of State is the state’s third ranking elected official, following the Governor and Lt. Governor. State law gives the Secretary of State many different duties. As Rhode Island’s chief elections officer, the Secretary of State registers voters, prepares ballots, certifies election results and administers oaths of office. The Secretary of State also works with companies registered to do business in Rhode Island – more than 70,000 in all. State laws and other official acts, such as issuing bonds, must be signed by the Secretary of State in order to make them official. The Secretary of State is also charged with regulating lobbying activity in the Executive and Legislative branches of state government. In addition, the Secretary of State also processes, preserves and gives the public access to hundreds of thousands of historic documents and public records.


The Office of the Secretary of State existed before Rhode Island became a state. The first office-holder, William Aspinwall, served from 1637-38, just one year after the colony was founded. Over the years, the title changed General Recorder to Secretary of the Colony until it finally become Secretary of State in 1776. The term of office changed over the years, too. The Secretary of State served just one year at a time from 1637 until 1912, when a Constitutional amendment set the term at two years. In 1994, another Constitutional amendment changed the term to four years. Until 1663, the Secretary of State was appointed by the legislature, but now is elected by popular vote. The Secretary of State may serve only two consecutive terms before having to leave office for at least one term. If the Office of Secretary of State becomes vacant, the General Assembly appoints a replacement to serve for the remainder of the term. In order to serve as Secretary of State, you must be at least 18 years old, a registered voter, a resident of Rhode Island for at least 30 days and a U.S. citizen.