Mrs. Jenkins Wants a Recount

A Short Story About Voting, Friendship, and the Digital Age. Chapter 1.

I spent thirty years working in local politics, making the cold calls, setting up the tables for the fundraising dinners, knocking on doors, and generally promoting, donating to, and defending my beloved Republican party.  My name is Matthew Cence and I am Pennsylvania's Commissioner of Elections. 

It's an appointed position that I couldn't have been prouder to acccept when the Governor called my home (most unexpectedly) and offered me the position.  After all these years, after attending one County meeting after another, and then State level party meetings, I finally could quit my job as Director of Grace Manor Nursing Home and make a real impact for Pennsylvania.  

But it was a significant drop in pay and my two daughters would be attending college in the next few years, so it wasn't an easy decision to make.  However, my love for politics won out. Encouraged by my equally Republican wife, Susan, I packed our bags and we moved from the tiny hamlet of East Greenville to Harrisburg, the State capitol.  The year was 2010.

So how did I find myself standing here in 2012, at a microphone-covered podium, blinded by klieg lights, surrounded by reporters, prepared to make a statement that would end my association with my party and change the election process forever?  I blame Mrs. Barbara Jenkins.

The election seemed to be normal in every way.  The Governor had made it his top priority to replace the voting machines in every precinct.  For the first time, as soon as the polls closed, all votes would be digitally sent to a non-profit corporation- Redstar Demographics, Incorporated.  Redstar would tally the vote and then provide final results to each county via secure email.

The President of Redstar, John Reardon, was also a Republican, and was known for his personal generosity to our slate of candidates each election.  He and I had become close friends- golfing together, sharing family barbeques, and skiing in the Poconos. We even went on a family cruise to the Bahamas with John and his family.   

In the 2010 election, our party increased our majority in both State houses and we regained the Governor’s seat.  There was nothing to stop us from achieving our political goals.  The State even showed a 650 million dollar surplus!  But then the Governor proposed devastating cuts to public education and school districts across the Commonwealth started bleeding red ink.  Major cuts to athletic, music, and art programs were enacted. Statewide, tens of thousands of teachers lost their jobs.  Some teacher unions agreed to major concessions.

By 2012, our earlier actions were widely known and despised.  The Governor's poll ratings plummeted.  The Democrats ran crafty, attack campaigns. Then, on November 5th, the people voted and we quickly discovered, tp our great surprise, that our party had completely annihilated the Democrats in the election.   

The day following the election, Jorges Rivera called to make an official complaint. Jorges is a Democratic Committee person from West Philadelphia and he made a complaint every election.                                                  

"So, what's the problem? Not enough coffee cake?" I asked with a chuckle.                             " I demand a full recount!"  He exclaimed.  I laughed out loud.                                    "Jorge, you will have to show a great deal more than that to get my attention," I replied.   “I’m not  fooling' around with you, Cence. I want the votes re-counted.                              "On what basis?", I asked, somewhat curious.                                                                     "On the basis that every one of your computer tallies are wrong!"  Jorges was furious.  

Yet I knew that his complaint was smply not possible. The system was painstakingly built and operates flawlessly. Then Mrs. Barbara Jenkins called me from her cell phone and I knew that all bets were off. 

~end part 1

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Free Voter Issue Training in Colorado

If you’re young and unemployed, underemployed, or simply a pro-choice voter who wants to hone in on your election-based skills, you might want to think about attending the Youth the Vote Training in Denver on September 18, 2010. Choice USA: Leadership for a Pro-Choice Future is holding the training to help young people master the skills and knowledge necessary to not only get out the vote this fall, but to also ensure that reproductive rights are ensured in the sate of Colorado.

Choice USA, COLOR, and more volunteers will be providing education on the “fetal personhood” amendment being debated in Colorado, as well as how to mobilize friends, family, and other voters to take action against it. Even though the bill, worded in nearly the exact same way, was voted down in 2008 by the citizens of Colorado, it’s back on the table now with only slightly different language. Of course, if the bill does pass, it would negate Roe vs. Wade, and would have a good chance of being struck down by the Supreme Court. Still, as it could provide a fetus with the same rights a human has (including a social security card? A birth (conception?) certificate?), it’s a dangerous piece of legislation that could put many women’s lives in danger. The Tabor Initiatives will also be discussed.

To register for the event, click here. Though a donation amount of $10 is suggested, any amount will suffice. Choice USA will also provide free training to those who cannot afford a donation at this time. This training has the potential to train young activists to not only help save the lives of women and their families this fall, but also to help them become more knowledgeable voters, activists, and possible political leaders. The knowledge you’ll be sure to attain at this leadership training will come in handy while searching for jobs, becoming a political figure, or in working in the grassroots organizing sector.

And even if you don’t plan on running for office, you already have a steady job, or you’re already planning on mobilizing friends and family to vote this fall, this training program can still help you to learn more about the issues, maximize your arsenal of activist skills, and network with other pro-choice activists in the area. To learn more about Choice USA, to sign up for e-mail alerts, or to get involved right now in the organization’s various campaigns, click here.

Male Voters and Politics

The process of voting for many modern societies has roots in a male dominated type of political system. In many countries it was only rich, white, land owning men that had any say in matters of voting and in some cases, depending on who you talk to, this is how the system is still run.

In the lead up to the 2008 presidential election there was a lot of focus on the male voter. Stories such as "The Vanishing Male Voter" , and "Obama's problem with white, male voters", dominated the news. The stories focused on men avoiding the voting booths and their civil responsibilities to America. Did these stories have any merit, was there any truth to them? Well - not when you look at the statistics of the voting population after the election as these showed that - at least for young men - testosterone held the majority of votes. A lot of hot air can certainly help keep ratings up - even if its not really accurate.

I personally feel the competition between "players", and "cheering for ones own team" will keep the sport of elections and politics alive for men in the years to come. Its the adrenaline rush, and the feeling of victory that makes politics interesting to men. I am just waiting for the time elections are sponsored by a major beer company; maybe something like "OBAMA 2012 - if change wasn't your thing try it with a cold, refreshing, Budweiser". A boy can dream.

Cash Rules Everything Around Me

Politics in its truest, boldest and most base form: Cash. Time is Money; Money is Power; Moneeeey… It’s a gas… Keep your hands off my stash…(Musical post: listen to this one while you read this post).

This week closes with two important power-moves revolving around the cold hard cash. California, who doesn’t have any, finally agrees with itself on how to spend it and the U.S., who doesn’t really have any either, decides to give $200 million to the Palestinian Authority.

Let’s start there.

Apparently the Palestinian Authority has a budget crisis so the U.S. is planning to transfer $200 million there. A formal announcement from Hillary Clinton is expected before the end of the day. The administration is framing this as part of a peace-talk preparation, that they are trying to smooth the groundwork so that Israeli-Palestinian peace-talks can resume.

Sounds more like the U.S. trying to get Palestinian Authority confidence and dependence. It’s a lot harder to say no to someone about something when you owe them money, right? This past March Clinton pledged $900 million during a conference in Egypt, so we may just see plenty more before too long.

It’s interesting politics- if we can get the Palestinian Authority to owe us money, then Israel needs us for guns and the P.A. for cash- now that’s control. Whether we have that much control, well, of course I don’t know, but the machinations of power are strong in this one, young Jedi.

And then there is California. I see this headline screaming at me everyday from the bus stops: Budget Deficit Grows, Talks Stalled or something like that. A few weeks ago the state started paying people with I.O.U.’s and their (our) credit rating got switched to a few notches above junk status- so we’ve got that going for us.

Well, this morning the state senate approved a set of bills that will balance the state budget, closing the imposing $26.3 Billion deficit. The state Assembly still needs to sign off, as does Arnold, but for something that has been stalled in a virtual staring and pissing match for weeks, this is progress worth celebrating. And it gives some perspective on the money issues- The Palestinian Authority is getting a $200 million loan, which I assume is at least a meaningful sum. ONE STATE in the U.S. is down over $25 BILLION for ONE YEAR.

California is not in good shape- 11% unemployment, up 4% from last year at this time. This new budget balancing set of bills cuts funding to programs in education and public programs, big cuts, probably when those services are about to be needed the most.

Maybe the Palestinian Authority should consider lending half of that money to California at interest. You loan it to create it- maybe California should do the same- loan money to the folks they aren’t paying and ask for it back at interest. Time to call Silicon Valley- there’s a business plan in there somewhere.

The week ends off with politics in its truest, boldest and most base form: Cash.

the majority of precincts in Berks and Montgomery Counties would not be able to process all of its voters in 13 hours....

Several battleground states are not prepared to meet the challenge of administering the general election on November 4th, where turnout will be unprecedented, According to a report conducted by Advancement Project, a national leading voter protection organization.

In Pennsylvania, Advancement Project estimated potential turnout at three different levels for Berks, Montgomery counties and Philadelphia, to assess the impact of polling place resource allocations. Based on these estimates and the actual numbers of machines and poll workers assigned to different precincts, Advancement Project has concluded that many jurisdictions appear severely under-resourced and ill-prepared.

....the majority of precincts in Berks and Montgomery Counties would not be able to process all of its voters in 13 hours, and there are precincts in all those counties as well as Philadelphia that could potentially need more than 20 or even 30 hours to process all voters

Pennsylvania election nightmare: Long lines await voters in several counties

Pennsylvania election nightmare: Long lines await voters in several counties

Marybeth Kuznik, Executive Director of VotePA warns "Plan On Long Lines In Bucks Co, PA". In her testimony to PA lawmakers, she warned that officials that state there will not be enough voting machines in counties using paperless computerized machines. The state is basing its estimates on the use of lever machines, instead of considering the fact that it takes much longer vote on computerized machines. The Intelligencer backs this up in an article today.

No Secret Testing - Allegheny County announced that it had tested...

Nice try, but No Secret Testing of Voting Machines, please! October 21, 2008


Yesterday afternoon, Allegheny County announced that it had tested and verified the firmware on a random sample of eighteen of its ES&S iVotronic voting machines. The tests were said to be conducted at the County's elections warehouse on Saturday and Monday under the supervision of County Election officials following protocols developed in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Department of State. The County said the actual testing was done by SysTest Labs, which is the private consulting firm that performed the original testing of the iVotronic to the 2002 "federal" standards, allowing its current certification in Pennsylvania and other states....

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