20 Questions

(PHOTO BY NEAL BRUNS)

Beth Dlug

By Bonnie Blackburn
Beth Dlug has made a career of running big operations with lots of picky details that make the difference between winning and losing, between success and failure. Now, as director of elections for Allen County, she oversees the printing and distribution of thousands of ballots, then the counting of said ballots, and then the reporting of election results. With a presidential election on tap this year, Dlug expects turnout to be heavy this fall. But she’s ready to count ballots for the May 8 primary. Don’t forget to vote!

 

How easy is it for people to vote these days?
There are more and more options. We have voting by mail, (or) you can come into our office and vote several weeks before. And there’s always Election Day itself.


Do you have any problems with the new machines?
There’s always some limitations, such as how many candidates can be on one screen at one time. I mean, they’re machines, so they can fail. For the most part, these are wonderful. You can pack them up into a little suitcase. The people who decided to get the Microvote machines did a great job. (The machines) are outstanding, and that’s evident because we’re usually done (tabulating results) by 10 p.m.


Why don’t we have curtains anymore in the voting booths?
The curtains were built into those old machines. Now, we have panels that take the place of the curtains. We make sure voters’ backs are to the wall. We try to make sure the (voter’s) privacy stays intact.


How do poll workers get picked?
They are nominated by the political party, and then we check if they are registered voters. There are a lot of rules, (such as) if they are on the ballot to be a state delegate, then they can’t work in a polling place where they are on that ballot.


What keeps poll workers coming back?
It’s definitely not the money! They are a special breed of people and we are so grateful for them. It’s their way of giving back to the community. They see it as their civic duty.


What appeals to you about your position?
I’ve been involved in elections for the past 20 years. I love Election Day. It all builds up to this one day.


How often do the polling sites change and how are those changes decided?
We try not to change them at all! This (election) we had one change because the site is under construction. Precincts change based on population, and sometimes we have to combine precincts into one polling site. We don’t want people to have to travel too far to vote. Another consideration is that polling sites have to be accessible to everyone. We can’t use schools anymore. The best places we’ve found are churches. They don’t usually have things happening on a Tuesday and they tend to have good parking.


Your career has been one of making large, detail-oriented operations run smoothly. What appeals to you   about that?
I like to make a difference. I think most people want to do that. I’ve always found myself gravitating to leadership positions and luckily I’ve had people who believe in me and who have supported me in those positions.


What skills do you rely on?
You have to be practical. I feel like you have to be compassionate and as a leader, you have to be able to set a course and tell your staff, this is where we’re going to go.


How are primary elections different from general elections?
Usually we see less turnout. Primaries are basically party functions. In Indiana, you have to declare which party you want to vote in a primary, and a lot of people don’t want to do that, so they don’t come out and vote.


American democracy comes down to the moment a voter goes into the voting booth. How do you ensure the process runs smoothly?
We have great resources. We know what works and what doesn’t. It’s just prepare, prepare, prepare. We think of every possible scenario and every possible problem and figure out how to solve it.


Are you a big picture or a small detail kind of person?
I’m getting more and more big picture. I realize I can’t focus on those details as much any more.

 

What’s in heavy rotation on your mp3 player?
John Mayer, Derek Trucks, Susan Tedeschi, Bruce Springsteen.

 

Who is your favorite local politician?
I can’t say! I try to be apolitical.


How would you rate the quality of the candidates who run for office in Fort Wayne and Allen County?
I think that the beauty of the democratic system is that anyone has the chance to run. It’s fascinating what motivates people who run for office.


What’s the most hectic part of the election process for you?
Getting the ballots ready. We have over 1,500 different ballots ready for the primary. We have different ballots for people who are 17 (and are eligible to vote if they will turn 18 before the general election). We have different state delegates in different precincts. It’s a ton of ballots. We have to wait until everyone has filed, and then we have about three weeks to get the ballots ready.


Do you vote on Election Day or do you vote in advance?
I have to vote early because I’m (working) on Election Day. I always take advantage of early voting, so I can do it at my convenience.


What excites you?
I love having a project and getting really into it and seeing the outcome.


When you were growing up, what sorts of jobs interested you?
I wanted to be a forest ranger. I had a conservation teacher, Mr. Waldman at Homestead (High School), who influenced me very much. I went to the University of Montana to become a park ranger. I even worked at Yellowstone in college. But I realized that it wasn’t for me. I still love going on a vacation where there are beautiful mountains.

 

What’s the most important result of your work?
The fact that we make it possible for people to get involved in telling their government how they want it to be run. I’m so proud to be involved. I don’t understand people who don’t vote and then complain (about government) later. It doesn’t make any sense to me.

Posted: Wed, 06/13/2012 - 2:50 pm
Last updated: Wed, 06/13/2012 - 2:50 pm