Panel rejects elected secretary of state

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A proposal to return Florida’s secretary of state to a statewide elected position was defeated Thursday by a Florida Constitution Revision Commission panel.

Without debate, the commission’s Executive Committee voted 4-2 against the measure (Proposal 14), which was sponsored by former Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville.

Gaetz said he filed the proposal, which would take effect in the 2022 election, to bring Florida in line with the majority of states that let voters pick the state’s top elections official.

Florida had an elected secretary of state until 2003, when the elected position was eliminated as part of a constitutional amendment that shrank the state Cabinet from six to three members.

The secretary of state is currently appointed by the governor.

Gaetz said having an independently elected secretary of state would avoid “awkward” situations or even conflicts of interest in election disputes.

Sen. Aaron Bean, a Fernandina Beach Republican who is sponsoring a similar measure (SJR 506) in the Legislature, testified in support of Gaetz’s proposal.

Bean said after the meeting that he is not likely to advance his Senate measure because of opposition in the House.

Although Gaetz’s proposal was defeated Thursday, it could be revived when the full Constitution Revision Commission meets later this year.

The commission, which meets every 20 years, has the ability to place constitutional amendments directly on the 2018 general election ballot.

Ballot proposals must be approved by 60 percent of the voters to take effect.