Elections chief to be secretary of state
Seminole County Supervisor of Elections Mike Ertel on Friday was named Florida’s next Secretary of State by Gov.-elect Ron DeSantis.
Ertel, 49, a Republican who has served as Seminole’s elections chief since 2005, “has proven that he is vastly qualified to lead the state’s elections efforts as Secretary of State, and will strive to ensure that Florida voters are confident that elections continue to be fair and accurate,” DeSantis said in a statement.
The secretary of state is in charge of the Division of Elections, with outgoing secretary Ken Detzner a prominent figure during last month’s statewide recount.
In an interview, Ertel said being secretary of state is “a very big job that goes beyond just elections,” with DeSantis also citing the department’s work in preserving historical and cultural heritage, providing access to information and helping cities with grant programs.
But, he acknowledged, “the most high-profile thing we’ll really focus on in the beginning is help establish trust in the [election] process among Florida voters.”
In November, there were controversies over ballot design and slow vote counting in Broward and Palm Beach counties, as well as a rogue supervisor in Bay County who counted emailed and faxed ballots. But Ertel said the state needs to highlight the work of the counties who did “a great job” during the election and recount.
“We need to instill the best practices to ensure all counties run as well as [those did],” Ertel said. “And on a state level, we have to make sure we do what we can do to give counties the tools they need to run great elections.”
Ertel earned bipartisan praise, with state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, calling him “a good, qualified choice — an upgrade from current leadership.”
“We may not agree on everything, but he’s not a Republican hack; he’s reasonable,” Smith said. “I hope he uses his influence to thwart any Amendment 4 [felon voting rights] shenani- gans and is open to the common sense elections reforms Florida desperately needs. I look forward to working with him.”
Ertel, who previously applied for the secretary of state position after Kurt Browning resigned in
2012, has long been active on social media, providing commentary and opinions on Twitter and Facebook about elections issues.
In 2017, he threw cold water on President Donald Trump’s claim that “millions” voted illegally in the 2016 election.
“To be clear: voter fraud is likely one of the least committed felonies in America and barring system-wide collusion, it is simply not the case that ‘millions voted illegally’,” Ertel wrote.
His office has also received plaudits for its student registration program, which earned it a prestigious First Time Voters Award in
2017 from the International Elections Awards in Jordan.
“You are among the least likely people to vote,” Ertel told the students at Hagerty High School in Oviedo in April. “The older you are, the more likely you are to vote — and politicians know that. Prove them wrong in November. Go out in November and vote.”
Ertel has called for closing the loophole that allows a single write-in candidate to close off primaries, saying he would work with the Legislature “to ensure the process is fair for everybody, and that includes [addressing] the write-in loophole.”
He has also stressed protecting Florida’s elections systems from hackers and defended the current mail-in ballot deadlines after the controversy in November over thousands of rejected ballots, saying voters needed to ensure they mailed in their ballots as early as possible.
Ertel attended the University of Maryland University College and is a graduate of the journalism program at the Defense Information School, a Department of Defense school that trains communications specialists. Ertel also completed the Crummer mini-MBA at Rollins College in 2015.
The Miami Children’s Museum will feature a balloon drop at noon during its New Year’s Eve celebration.