Skip to comments.What the Hell happened to "Project Orca"?
Posted on 11/08/2012 10:45:37 AM PST by jeffo
Much was made in the closing days of the election about the GOP's "Project ORCA", a Smartphone-linked network of volunteers who would enable the party to know who had voted in real time, allowing them to target their resources on election day to people and area who had NOT yet voted or had low turnout. It was a brilliant idea, and I know for a fact that when the Dems found out about it, there was some grave concern from a number of them.
Well, here in Virginia my wife volunteered, participated in three training calls, plus online training - many hours. However, she was never contacted to receive her credentials, and was unable to join the election eve conference call (she kept getting the message that there was no meeting). Repeated calls and emails to GOP and Romney headquarters the last 2 days were not returned.
So we lose Virginia, and here was my Wife willing to spend the entire day at any polling place they sent her to help. And they ignored her. I don't know if this happened all over the state or country, I don't know if the whole thing was a bluff, but you know that good feeling you get when you are appreciated? We don't have that. We voted for Mitt, of course, but if this is the level of disorganization and neglect that the campaign showed at the end, its no wonder we lost. Does anyone else involved in ORCA have anything to report?
Volunteered to be a poll watcher here in NC. Locally, it was a mess when the Romney people were assigning people to poll watch without notifying the county Republican offices (who, by state law, are the only ones who can certify poll watchers). Thought that was straightened out by the weekend; then a “glitch” from Boston kept most of the volunteers in our county from getting the ORCA lists.
Never did get a list, never got the app - the whole operation was bungled from Boston.
On the plus side, I am told the app was very pretty.
My experience is the state/district/county, take your pick, are the biggest impediment to success. Once in power, they want to stay there. Those who profess to want smaller government, seem to build their own big government within their fiefdom. IMHO
ORCA was telling the Romney headquarters that they were winning, even during Election Day. That is why they wouldn’t concede Ohio right away. Because ORCA showed Romney in a stronger position in OH than he really was.
Team Romney believed beyond doubt that they were going to win. The result caught them off-guard.
Took in the ORCA training, received an assignment to a polling place in West Palm Beach County.
The election eve conference call was intended to run down the ORCA process and motivate folks to use it and keep Boston updated as to possible legal infractions in the polling places. Well at least I think that was what it was supposed to accomplish.
I dial in 3-4 minutes before the start time, it rings busy. I speed redial it about 20x over the next 15 min until I get a recording that says "The conference call is over. Thank you for participating." So I started calling the limited number of folks I knew in Boston, Washington and Tampa to figure out - when are we getting the download of this app, which we need to start using in about 7 hours at the polls? Every number I could dial had a blown-up voice mailbox. Couldn't reach anyone. So I e-mail about 7 Romney people asking for the proper contact so I could actually get ORCA loaded on my phone. No responses.
I google "ORCA/Romney" and find a Huffington Post article written by a reporter who had crashed one of the training conference calls on ORCA several weeks ago. He published information in the article that the Romney Campaign hadn't even distributed to me (a PDF with download instructions - but useless because I needed a particular URL and specific password). So I'm starting to get concerned about midnight Monday when I see that I am learning more about my ostensible function on Tuesday from The Huffington Post than from the campaign I have contributed to and volunteered for.
Then in a Facebook post I dredged up, I saw comments indicating that the software would be downloaded at 5:00 am election morning. Great, I go to sleep for a few hours and check e-mail at 5:15 am. No e-mail.
I call the "Command Center" number for ORCA and get a recorded message "Call us after 6:00 am". I call after 6 and continuously until 10 am, when I finally reach someone. In the meantime I hit Dunkin' Donuts to get treats for the poll workers and get to the precinct I was assigned to at about 3 minutes before open. Easily 300 people already lined up. Inside are 3 GOP poll-watchers for each precinct registration table. Roughly 3x what was necessary. Nice to have a surplus of volunteers, but use them wisely, not ultra redundantly in a limited number of places.
When I finally get through to the Command Center at 10 a.m. I ask about my ORCA app. I'm getting this hemming and hawing from what must have been a 25 year old in Boston. He just couldn't bring himself to admit the app crashed and burned and said "uh..er...it isn't necessary for you..uh... to remain at that polling place." So I get in my car and started calling to find out where I was needed. Every hotline/command center phone number I was given had melted down, you couldn't reach anyone.
A few minutes later I started getting this stream of calls from locations apparently all over the country (LA, Buffalo, Norfolk, NYC, Cincinnati, etc.). It was the beginning of a torrent of calls from the Romney HQ personnel in Boston and Washington who had to resort to using their personal cell phones to communicate with people in the field. So, for example I'd get a call saying go up to Riviera Beach to precinct XXXX and see so-and-so about thus-and-such. Then while driving to Riviera Beach I'd get a call saying "No, turn around and get down to this particular precinct in Boca", and then en route to that I'd get another new instruction to go in an entirely different direction. It was a bunch of folks in Boston on their personal phones making decisions which had no central control, logic, or, in the end, purpose.
Some of the lawyers who were working in the Romney Campaign with me on the ground in Palm Beach County are heavy hitters who bill at $475/hr. My opportunity cost is not that large, but still I volunteered several days and contributed $. To take this crew of volunteers and use them in such a disorganized, pointless way was a crime. It was a f***ing Chinese fire drill all afternoon.
I know it is a hard thing to do to run a campaign with loads of volunteers and all the temporary paid workers, but this was a joke. The vaunted Romney talent for organization and business leadership was nowhere on display in the conduct of the campaign operation I saw here in South FL.
I have two theories on what happened:
1. Some young crew of tech folks in the Romney HQ was overly impressed with what they could do to create the "killer app" for the campaign. They were so impressed with their great idea, they forgot to beta test it, and like a lot of software, it didn't work in its initial form. There was no contingency plan, and these young, tech enamored folks cannot improvise in the old, lo-tech world (which is still what the majority of campaign logistics are.)
2. There is the possibility of sabotage of the app and the phone system by folks antagonistic to the Romney Campaign, maybe even by some plants in the campaign who were functionally Obama operatives. Perhaps Romney's nice-guy Mormon perspective is less aware of the potential for back stabbing and dirty tricks like these and that left the door open. Just sayin'.
Maybe the ORCA thing wouldn't have made any difference even if it was functioning properly. I don't know how to assess that.
Net-net - a total f****** disaster.
Well GOP is in a bit of a mess. All the divisions we have had with the GOP-E needed to be fixed or still need to be fixed before we can take on the left. Then we also have to focus on getting out the vote efforts on election day. And we need more media outlets like The Blaze TV which will expand soon to U-Verse and is trying to get on cable companies as well.
Yes - same here with some volunteers I know.
I couldn’t see the utility of Orca for GOTV efforts. First of all, it was nearly impossible to hear the voters’ names with all the noise in the polling center.
Secondly, there was no service in the semi-rural polling building I was in. So the data was slow to get to the Orca people.
One utility it had was that I was able to write voters’ names on paper and closely observe the whole process. I think that was extremely important. My friend who is pregnant waited for 2 hours in line with a 4-year-old in Northern VA, and they told her she’d already voted. :-/ Something hinky for sure.
What to do:
Spend the next two years cleaning up the voter rolls. Make sure VA voters have their registration cards ready to go on election day.
Also, when polls close, there needs to be a document where the poll workers SIGN and CERTIFY that they have a certain NUMBER of votes on their electronic system. It’s all on their computer. Poll watchers told me that when the official numbers came out, in some precincts they were LOWER than what they’d been ‘told’ for a FINAL count. So ‘telling’ isn’t good enough - make them sign something. Get it put on the law books that this is legally required - that the parties be informed in writing, if requested, of the official final count at 7:00 sharp in each precinct.
I worked outside a polling place in Alexandria handing out sample ballots. A few Republicans showed up to volunteer without training, but only one guy outside had a poll watcher memo. It seemed to me that he called in a number only after polls closed. He said that there was another Repub inside who I did not see from 9 AM thru 7 PM.
The Dems had all kinds of workers heading in and out flashing papers. A lawyer (with a foreign accent which she claimed was from England, but seemed to have a bit of French accent as well) was on station outside to help Democrat voters get provisional ballots, or a regular ballot instead of a provisional, or call assistance to guide them to other polling places. This outside lawyer was handed cases from a couple of folks working inside, a well dressed African-American women and a hard looking guy with a Slavic accent.
Another group that had folks come and hang around for a half hour to and hour several times during the day was “Election Protection” who wore black T-Shirts with that name on it, and claimed to be a non-partisan group preventing voting problems (apparently they are a Democrat operation of some sort). The ones that I talked to were young lawyers from DC.
Around noon a guy in a suit with Illinois license plates drove up and whisked inside for about ten to fifteen minutes.
At one point in the late morning, I overheard the guy in charge of the Dems handing out sample ballots (who I initially mistook for a homeless man who had wandered into the area do to his unkempt appearance and threadbare clothing) tell another Dem that he was going inside to see if there were any ballots laying around (He had a poll watcher letter). Toward the end I heard him instruct another to make sure that “our friend” got inside before the doors close, and then clean up the signs. He also mentioned that part of his job was to periodically call in “numbers”.
In any case, the Dems seemed to have a great ongoing awareness of what was going on throughout the day, and had several overlapping operations going on. Many of the ones that I talked to had been working the polls on election day for many years, and knew their way around the whole operation very well (all the Repubs outside were first timers).
One method of fraud that I had not considered before, but I now consider something to guard against, is for poll watchers or other “fair election” groups to just to wait for an opportunity to “shoplift” a handful of ballots, go somewhere to fill them out, and then reverse “shoplift” them back in to an accomplice or straight into the bin with counted ballots.
They obviously had a lot of organized folks milling in and out of the polling station all day, and Republicans did not.
I also participated. I did my job by reporting their numbers of those who voted but I have no idea what they did with the info.
The credentials were sent by e-mail with the list. My list was top notch and totally up to date.
Turns out that disgust at the months of ads, mailers and knocks on the door had moved many previously high propensity voters into the low propensity voter category. BO's folks understood the situation, heck, they created it. So they cajoled their turned off (formerly) high propensity voters to vote during early voting. Romney left his (formerly) high propensity voters to show up on their own on Tuesday, and far too few of them did.
Obviously Orca had a lot of issues in some places. For what little it is worth, Lawyers for Romney was light years ahead of McCain/Palin. I volunteered online, gave them a bunch of information, received an assignment, and was able to immediately contact a campaign rep where they wanted me.
In 2008 I had to have folks pass my name on to the campaign in a daisy chain of emails, and after several attempts I got back, through the daisy chain, an assignment in New Mexico. When I showed up, the local party was doing all the work, and was barely even in contact with McCain/Palin -- in what was supposed to be a swing state. The other out of state lawyers told the same tale, they were only there because they had pestered contacts in the Republican Party until they were finally given an assignment.
I'm in Pennsylvania...I volunteered...shared information with a leader, had conference calls, the last day I was still waiting for my training packet and certification, when I contacted the leader, he email me a pamphlet to download, still no certification, so I finally wrote him and told him I would not be volunteering at the assigned post, due to lack of cooperation, so on election day, I go to the poll, I know almost everyone there...I asked if they had any type of legal noticatification I was a poll watcher or monitor, they said they had nothing for me but a gentleman was to be there and he never showed up, a name I did not recognize at all..to make a long story short...that program could have been sabotaged by the Liberals??? do ya think???
I've saved all my correspondence and name of the team leader..
really disappointed, but by the end of the night I mentioned to hubby, it will be a cold day when I get involved with the GOP again...I'm ready for a third party...
What state are you in, if you dont mind... obviously it was messed up in PA, VA and FL... if it worked in some states but not the “battleground” ones that would certainly point to dirty tricks.
If anyone from Romney campaign follows this, I think the ORCA volunteers are owed an explanation.
I had a similar situation in that I participated in conference calls and training yet no app or credentials ever arrived. I showed up at my assigned precinct at Tysons Corner anyway and the 2 ORCA people there had an extra iPad w/the app up and running that I used. We each sat behind the 3 check-in laptops and logged the voters in the ORCA app as voters arrived. We worked basically non-stop between 6am and 7pm.
I hope they work out the bugs —I can see how it is extremely helpful.
The list was e-mailed to me overnight on the 6th and the list was totally up to date because my husband had voted at the auditor's office on the 5th and his name was not on the list. I have no guarantee they got the names and I have no idea what they did with the info.
Two months isn't enough to get something together, especially since they're strapped for cash at the beginning, given the all-out sprint (i.e. expensive ad blitz) near the end of primary season. Party-building should really be the party's function. Where the heck was Reince Preibus?
ORCA should be a case study for groupthink, confirmation bias, and intelligence failure.
Unfortunately, I’d be part of it. I really believed in the data. :(