Despite what appears to be a record of service, particularly with helping register people to vote and advocating for million of felons to get the right to vote, Michael Ertel decided, after being appointed to the Seminole County supervisor of elections back in 2005, that he would put together racist a Halloween costume.
Last week, The Tallahassee Democrat obtained photos of Ertel in blackface, and texted them to him. Ertel confirmed it was him in the photos.
He resigned Thursday around 2 p.m.
“I am submitting my resignation as Florida secretary of state effective immediately,” he wrote. “It has been an honor to serve you and the voters of Florida.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis named Ertel on Dec. 28 to replace Ken Detzner, who served as former Gov. Rick Scott’s Secretary of State since 2012.
DeSantis is known for his racist remarks toward his Democratic opponent, former Tallahassee mayor Andrew Gillum, in the mid-term elections. DeSantis, who told voters during his campaign not to “monkey this up,” addressed Ertel’s resignation:
“It’s unfortunate. He’s done a lot of good work,” he said, adding that he accepted the resignation because “I don’t want to get mired in side controversies.”
Ertel had testified earlier on Thursday about election lawsuits before a state legislative committee. He had earned an MLK award for registering voters in Longwood, and spoke out against purging of “non-citizens” from voter rolls saying many were eligible voters. He also provided post-disaster media relations after 2004 hurricanes hit Florida.
Yet, he’ll now be remembered for wearing blackface makeup, red lipstick, earrings, a New Orleans Saints bandana, fake breasts and a t-shirt with “Katrina Victim” written on it.
When DeSantis appointed Ertel, less than a month ago, he said, in part, in his prepared statement:
“I look forward to Mike bringing not only his elections expertise to Florida voters, but his steady leadership to the Department of State, as it seeks to improve the quality of life for all Floridians through its various activities, including preserving the state’s historical and cultural heritage; maintaining an open government by providing all Florida citizens access to information.”
DeSantis had put Ertel in charge to run the Division of Corporations, the Division of Cultural Affairs, the Division of Historical Resources and the Division of Library and Information Services.
After his appointment, he tweeted back in December that DeSantis “has a bold vision for Florida. I am proud to be a part of his team!”
In July 2017, Ertel encouraged people to stay registered amid identify theft and data breach concerns around Trump’s special commission on voter information.
“Please don’t let an action you disagree with have the effect of silencing your most powerful tool to change or affirm it: your vote.”
This seems to ring true right about now.