Kootenai County elections official thinks back, looks ahead
Deedie Beard has worked in Kootenai County’s elections office for 28 years, many of them as manager. She’s retiring Nov. 30 and handing the reins to Carrie Phillips, formerly with the recorder’s office, on Dec. 1. Beard prides herself on accountability and integrity and said that in her tenure, the office has experienced just one recount. She chatted with The Spokesman-Review about elections.
Q.You do a lot of outreach to people who can’t get to the polls. Where are some of the places your workers have taken ballots?
A.There are two that I did that I have never forgotten. A lady that lived here in town had Hodgkin’s (disease). One of your reporters went with me. I called and asked her if it would be okay if I brought a photographer. She said, “That will be OK, honey.” When we got there, she was decked out. She had her hair all done. She had lipstick on. She had jewelry on. She was sitting there like a princess. I loved it. He did, too.
The other one was, I went out to Hayden Lake to vote this lady that had cancer. And it was a presidential election. And she said to me, “Oh honey, thank you so much for doing this. I have voted every year since I was old enough to vote and this will be my last election. And I can’t tell you how much it means.” I drove two blocks away and shut my car down and cried. Those are the things that make you feel “I’ve done my job,” because you’ve really helped somebody.
Q.What changes have been made over the years that made it easier for you to do your job?
A.One of them is absentee voting has increased. Vote-by-mail is big. (Kootenai County Clerk) Dan (English) tried to get legislation passed to be able to have all mail (voting) except for a couple of polling places, because we have Election Day registration.
Washington and Oregon are vote-by-mail. It didn’t pass, but I think the day will come when it will. because people are busy and absentee in general has increased, tremendously. It used to be one out of five; now it’s three out of five.
Q.So you think that might be coming to Idaho in the future?
A.I think it will. It saves a huge amount of money. One of our highest costs is poll workers because you’ve got 71 precincts and you’ve got to have at least three, by Idaho code, working it. … Our polls open at 7 (a.m.) and close at 8 (p.m.). They make minimum wage, but that’s dedication.
Q.So it’s a labor of love for many of them?
A.Absolutely. That’s a long day. I always tell them put a smile on your face, because it’s hard for somebody to yell at you if you’ve got a smile on your face. And when the going gets rough, make sure you have chocolate.
Q.Do the poll workers tell you stories about people yelling at them?
A.Actually people give them a hassle sometimes because they don’t have what it takes to register or they’re in the wrong precinct. Sometimes elections can bring out the mean in people.