The elected vs. appointed debate: Lawmaker proposes to make FL’s Secretary of State an elected position again

Aaron Bean
Aaron Bean

It’s been two decades since the administrator in charge of Florida’s election system has been elected by voters – but a state lawmaker is hoping to change that.

Fernandina Beach Republican State Senator Aaron Bean filed a resolution on Monday that would make the Florida Secretary of State an elected position as well as a member of the state Cabinet.

The Secretary of State was previously elected, but the governor now appoints the secretary, under changes made in the Florida Constitution in 1998.

The Secretary of State serves as the state’s chief of elections, the head of the Department of State and Florida’s chief cultural officer. The duties of the office also include overseeing historical resources and the state’s library and information services.

Bean introduced the resolution during the 2018 legislative session, and it was unsuccessful. He’s now filing it again.

One of his prime motivations is to provide a fifth vote on issues coming before the Governor and Cabinet, which is comprised of the governor, and the three Cabinet members: The Attorney General, Agricultural Commissioner and Chief Financial Officer.

Sandra Mortham, a former elected secretary of state, told a House panel during the 2018 session that the “consolidation of power” in the executive branch has led to conflicts of interest in the secretary of state’s office.“It has become more difficult for the secretary because clearly, they have a chain of command to have to deal with issues,” she said.

Even before 2018, lawmakers have attempted to make the Secretary of State an elected position, as well as the Education Commissioner – which used to be an elected position.

Florida’s current Secretary of State, Ken Detzner, was appointed to the position by Governor Rick Scott, in 2012.

Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with FloridaPolitics.com. He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.

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