eUpdate - Secretary of State Sarah Godlewski's 2023 Year End Newsletter

Offfice of Secretary of State Sarah Godlewski
Secretary of State 2023 Year End Newsletter


As we enter 2024, I wanted to share an update about our transition and success in the Wisconsin Secretary of State's office. Last year started out like no other when long-serving Secretary of State Doug La Follette resigned from office unexpectedly. I was a bit surprised, and certainly very honored, when the Governor asked me to serve in this constitutional position. It was so sudden that I took my oath of office in my Packer pajamas less than 48 hours later! Following this very Wisconsin swearing-in, I immediately got to work.

I am proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in such a short period of time and under such divisive political extremism. I believe the government needs to listen, be effective, and deliver. As my mom would say, “God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason. More listening and less talking!” Since taking office, I have traveled the state and learned a lot, including how the Secretary of State can better serve Wisconsinites. As a result, I’ve set forth my top three key goals for the State Office:

  1. Improve modernization, service delivery, and transparency
  2. Defend and strengthen our democracy
  3. Expand economic and community opportunities

I’m no stranger to transforming constitutional offices. I did it as Wisconsin’s State Treasurer, where we improved taxpayer transparency through our taxpayer report, expanded economic security through our homeownership program, addressed retirement security, and ensured stronger Wisconsin investments by reinvesting over $300 million. I look forward to using the same grit and innovation to transform the Secretary of State’s Office. We’ve already relaunched our website, cut our wait times for authentications and apostilles, and called for the removal of a 2020 fake elector from the Wisconsin Elections Commission.

In this newsletter, I will share more about the important work my office has achieved and what’s ahead in 2024. I look forward to serving you, and please know my door is always open.


Sarah Godlewski


Improve Modernization, Service Delivery, and Transparency

Modernization timeline2

What: Our modernization effort will improve service delivery and increase transparency.

Why: The Secretary of State has a wide-ranging mission that includes delivering important services to the people and businesses of Wisconsin. One of the key services this office provides is supporting Wisconsinites internationally. My office is responsible for authenticating the documents you may need to adopt a child from a different country, expand a business overseas, or study abroad. We manage over 14,000 authentication cases a year! However, the current process is a bit antiquated and inaccessible.

For example, if someone from Superior wants to authenticate documentation needed to adopt a child from overseas, they either need to visit the Secretary of State’s office in Madison or use the mail. These unnecessary barriers take time and can be costly, so we are working to remove some of those barriers with this modernization project.

The office also maintains thousands of state government records. Only a fraction of these documents are available online, which makes it hard to provide the transparency I believe is vital for our government. We are working diligently to address these opportunities for improvement that will better meet Wisconsinites where they are and provide excellent service delivery. Modernization is an important step to ensure an effective and efficient State Office.

Douglas County town hall

Douglas County town hall

How did we get here: Constitutional offices in Wisconsin have been attacked in an effort to consolidate power and diminish checks and balances. I saw this when I was State Treasurer; there was an effort to eliminate the office through a constitutional amendment. 

In my short time as Secretary of State, I’ve witnessed the impact this power grab has had on Wisconsinites as they navigate unnecessary barriers to access necessary services. Every time the legislature prevents my office from using our own revenue towards our budget, it makes it more difficult to effectively carry out our work for the people of Wisconsin.

What’s next: Our modernization project is aggressively moving forward. We have improved many of our processes, cut our wait times, and relaunched our website. Over the next year, we will:

  • Incorporate eCommerce options to provide more accessible service delivery
  • Digitize a large number of documents maintained by the Secretary of State to improve transparency
  • Implement a new financial and transaction management system
  • Update the Apostille and Authentication process to better align with the National Association of Secretaries of State and international best practices


Defend and Strengthen Our Democracy

Civics Trivia

Sarah hosting civics trivia with the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County

What: The United States is the greatest country in the world because of our democracy. Unfortunately, we’re seeing our democratic principles attacked by those who seek to consolidate power despite the will of the people. We know our democracy thrives when we all play a role.

How did we get here: In 2023, democracy was front and center in Wisconsin. Our state made headlines that emphasized the need for us to take action to defend individual freedom and self-governance. The submission of falsified 2020 election documents by illegitimate electors led to mis- and dis-information about the outcome of the election. Local clerks are leaving their profession because they are under capacity or harassed for their public service, and young people in Wisconsin are less proficient in civics than in many other states. As Secretary of State, I don’t administer elections, but my office does have responsibilities to support clerks and preserve our democracy.

What we're working on: 

  • Supporting Clerks and Local Government: The Secretary of State’s office supports clerks and local governments by authenticating their signatures and seals and assisting with records administration. I’ve traveled thousands of miles to meet with clerks and local government leaders across Wisconsin. Regardless of location - from Eau Claire to Janesville, Green Bay to Washburn, Kenosha to Stevens Point, Superior to La Crosse - the message was loud and clear: our clerks are a cornerstone of our communities, and they need our support. My office will focus on building capacity for our clerks and local leaders by implementing technology solutions and creating opportunities for young people to support clerks and experience new career possibilities with local government.

Kenosha Clerks2

Meeting with local clerks in Kenosha

  • Misinformation and Accountability: Since stepping into the role of Secretary of State, I’ve seen firsthand the dangers of mis- and dis-information. My office is responsible for keeping Electoral College records for the state of Wisconsin. As written in the constitution, my office must keep fair and accurate records, so when my office received a falsified Certificate of Votes for the 2020 election, I needed to do something. We released these falsified documents to the people of Wisconsin to uphold transparency. In light of Election Commissioner Robert Spindell's admission to signing a fraudulent election document, we called for his immediate removal from Wisconsin’s Election Commission. His actions were dangerous, and as he himself admitted, these documents were "used as part of an attempt to improperly overturn the 2020 presidential election results.” The people of Wisconsin deserve accountability. My office will continue to call out mis- and dis-information and any attempts to further consolidate power and diminish important checks and balances built into our government.
  • Civic Education and Engagement: As Secretary of State, and previously as State Treasurer, it’s been clear to me that we have an opportunity to educate young people and our state on the roles, responsibilities, and operations of our government. Civic education has declined across the country, and civics education is at a staggering 13% proficiency among young people, making it more difficult for people to know how to support their government. My office will continue to help facilitate opportunities for civic engagement.


Expand Economic and Community Opportunities

Bayfield econ development

Milwaukee econ development

Traveling the state, from Bayfield to Milwaukee, to meet with folks about economic development

What: Wisconsin is a great place to live, work, and raise a family. It’s important for our government to do what we can to provide economic opportunities across the state. 

Why: Secretaries of State across the country have been advocating for their respective states by utilizing their inherent international function to bring business opportunities and investment dollars back to their home states. In Wisconsin, our natural resources and top-notch workforce enable us to make important products and provide excellent services. We know more people and businesses around the world want to buy or invest in Wisconsin, but we’ve got to make connections and tell our story; the more we do this, the better! I look forward to joining my colleagues across the country in this mission, because Wisconsin is ready and willing to make high-quality products that are in high demand around the world.

In addition, I was honored to be reelected Chair of the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands (BCPL). The BCPL manages trust funds with $1.4 billion in assets whose income funds books and technology for all public schools. One of our programs, the State Trust Fund Loan Program, provides financing to Wisconsin communities for infrastructure, economic development, emergency needs, and other projects.

build econ 1

build econ 2

Sarah meeting with the people building our economy across the state

What’s Next:

  • Buy & Invest in Wisconsin: Right now, there are untapped markets and opportunities for Wisconsin to be competitive on the world stage, so my office will be engaging in efforts to strengthen and build international partnerships that will benefit Wisconsinites, our businesses, and our communities. I look forward to working with you and our state and federal partners to create new opportunities and new markets so Wisconsin can continue to thrive. These common-sense actions can strengthen our local economies and people's pocketbooks.
  • BCPL: With the retirement of former Secretary of State Doug LaFollette, I was honored to return as Chair of BCPL, a position I held previously as State Treasurer. During my term as chair, we took transformative actions that led to record-breaking distributions to public schools, totaling $159 million. We also financed over 600 projects, providing communities with the necessary funds to do everything from expanding broadband access to purchasing police and fire trucks. I look forward to not only continuing this important work but also finding new ways to support communities across Wisconsin.


Stay Connected:

If you would like to keep in touch with my office, please:

An online version of this Newsletter is available here.