Denise W. Merrill was elected to her third term as Connecticut's 73rd Secretary of the State on November 6, 2018. As Connecticut's chief elections official and business registrar, Merrill has focused on modernizing Connecticut's elections, business services and improving access to public records.
Secretary Merrill is focused on both civic engagement and fostering business enterprise. Since taking office, she has supported and expanded democratic participation, ensuring that every citizen's rights and privileges are protected and that every vote is counted accurately. Secretary Merrill has worked to expand voter participation through Election Day and online voter registration. She has also improved Connecticut's democratic accountability and integrity with a series of rapid response processes to Election Day problems. She was elected president of the National Association of Secretaries of State (NASS) for the 2016-17 term, was the co-chair of NASS’s Election Infrastructure Subsector Government Coordinating Council, and serves on the Board of Advisors to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.
As Connecticut's business registrar, Secretary Merrill has made it easier for businesses to interact with the office by increasing online functionality, improving response times and connecting businesses with government resources. Merrill has partnered with the U.S. Department of Commerce Export Assistance Center, the General Services Administration, and Small Business Development Administration to distribute information about business assistance and educational events being offered by these agencies. Secretary Merrill also launched an award-winning online business startup tool to help entrepreneurs navigate through various state and federal agencies. She also led the development of Connecticut's e-Regulations System, an online platform that provides access to all agency regulation-making records with real-times updates.
Prior to her election as Secretary of the State, Denise Merrill served as State Representative from the 54th General Assembly District for 17 years, representing the towns of Mansfield and Chaplin. First elected to the General Assembly in 1994, Merrill rose to the rank of House Majority Leader from 2009-2011. She also served as the House Chair of the budget writing Appropriations Committee from 2005-2009, as vice-chair of the Education Committee from 1994-1999 and as a member of the Government Administration and Elections Committee from 1995-1997. In a 2009 poll done by Connecticut magazine, Majority Leader Merrill was named by her colleagues in the legislature as "Most Respected by the Other Side of the Aisle" and "Most Effective Legislator."
Secretary Merrill is a graduate of the University of Connecticut, is licensed to practice law in the state of California, and is a classically trained pianist. She lives in Hartford. Her family includes husband Dr. Stephen Leach and his two sons, her three grown children and six grandchildren.