Mrs. Jenkins Wants a Recount

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