Project Orca Catharsis

I’m wondering about other folks’ experiences working with Project Orca, Romney’s state-of-the-art, cellphone-based GOTV program. Mine was a failure and an embarrassment. And I sensed it the night before the election, when I called the 800 number for our final conference call and got a busy signal.

The next morning, I loaded the program on my Blackberry only to find that the names of registered voters and the “voted/not voted” tabs didn’t line up. Then, after setting up at my precinct, I found …

  1. She

    What a nightmare.

    From everything I’ve read, it looks to me like the Democrat GOTV program starts the day after the Presidential election and runs for four years (I’m sure they’re already working on 2016).

    It looks to me like the Republican GOTV program starts some 3 1/2 years after the last election. 

    Some of this may have to do with the benefits of incumbency on the one hand and the chaos of the primary season on the other.

    The rest of it has to do with the drumbeat of a  consistent message, an idea that the Republicans would do well to embrace, no matter who their candidates are.  ‘Big Tent?’  Sure.  Fewer camels’ noses (and the camels’ other ends as well) peeking in, though.

  2. SunnyOptimism

    I’ve been reading about this issue on a lot of sites (Ace of Spades has a very detailed description of the total failure of Project ORCA) and it sounds as if, even though it was only a small component of the overall GOTV effort, it was an unmitigated failure both logistically and technologically.

    On the logistical side, it sounds like the whole process was completely botched and that everything was flung together at the last minute.  On the technology side, it sounds like an amateur, 1st-year technical college web programmer  was allowed to implement the “software”.

    Truly sad.  I think paper rolls and pencils (with some binders full of women) would have been more effective.

    In the end though, are we all just trying tor rationalize our defeat by looking for the “white rhino” in what is very likely just a string of multiple points of failure?

  3. Fat Dave

    I am certainly not blaming Orca for the defeat.  What I am saying is that Orca is a symptom of a bigger problem.  I’ve seen this before.  Some young guys hatch a scheme and sell it to a candidate as some revolutionary new political weapon, but all it does is cost the candidate money and alienate volunteers.  In the end, GOTV runs on shoe leather, and, while the RPV worked hard, county committees and the Romney campaign didn’t, at least in Virginia.

  4. liberal jim

    This is the guy you wanted to run the country?  

  5. Hang On

    The problem I see with Orca is that it is new technology that was rolled out at the last minute and expected to work flawlessly. How often does that happen in the real world? The amount of effort that goes into beta-testing real products is enormous. What’s even worse is that by rolling it out at the last minute without beta-testing, there will be the assumption that nothing better should be tried. A lose-lose scenario.

  6. Sally K
    It appears I’m the only exception here with a positive Orca experience. I’m in Virginia and was directed to a precinct 5 minutes from home, and received my authorization, full set of instructions, and a complete voter list eight days before the election.    No, you couldn’t use a phone in the room, but you only had to step into the hall to enter your data.  At one point when I was concerned my info (which I texted) wasn’t getting through, and I was able to contact the help number both in Boston and in the state office in Richmond to confirm it was getting through (it was).  The only complaint I would have is you couldn’t do it without at least two others assisting, which I had-it ended up being like an I Love Lucy episode (in the candy factory) trying to catch all the voters. 
  7. jkumpire

    I was a poll worker in a precinct with a volunteer who was a part of the program set up. The idea’s good, the execution wasn’t.  Without intending to the volunteer irritated the people working our precinct, and senior Board of Election officials were called to referee the situation. 

    I didn’t care what he did, he didn’t bother me. Others were bothered;   the irritation cut across both political parties. 

    The program seems good in theory,  if it’s tried again it may work. The problem is we have laws and scruples we have to answer to, unlike the Democrats especially in large cities, where they just bribe people to vote for them,  take buses of  voters down to poling places and tell them how to vote, violate multiple voting laws, and perform all kinds of lies and cheating to get votes.

    OTOH, if people voted for Obama because Sarah Jessica Parker had teas and made commercials for him, and pop singers dress in skin tight mega revealing short dresses with “Forward” on it as they sing, and women reacted positively to ads saying lose your virginity with a guy like Obama, Orca isn’t the problem.   

  8. Jason Hall

    Dave, just for future reference: If you type the letters on your Blackberry (I think you hit Alt or something similar to switch from letters to numbers), it will dial the correct numbers. As in, instead of trying to remember which number M is associated with, just put an actual M.

    I used to have a Blackberry and it was months before I realized I could do that, but it works.

  9. KarlUB

    FWIW, this is my brush with ORCA.

    Weeks ago I confirmed with my area Committee chair that I (a committeeman) would be available all day at my precinct to do whatever they wanted. Four days before the election, he mentions there will be an app for striking, and provides a link.

    I figure “Well, an app for striking should be pretty straightforward.” So I don’t worry about it. On Monday I check out the link to download the app. Link busted.

    Contact committee chair. He says, “Yeah. Well, just come by and get the paper strike sheets. During the day some person might be there saying he is doing the ORCA thing, but there’s no way to merge data sets, so just hand him your paper. We’ll send runners.” There was no ORCA volunteer.

    This tells me my County Committee– one of the more organized in the country– bailed on ORCA and just took care of it. Good thing, too, from what I can hear.

    Romney, by the way, won my Philadelphia ring county. Chester county. But not by as much as he needed to. But we nailed our local races. What’s that tell you?

  10. Fat Dave
    Jason Hall: Dave, just for future reference: If you type the letters on your Blackberry (I think you hit Alt or something similar to switch from letters to numbers), it will dial the correct numbers. As in, instead of trying to remember which number M is associated with, just put an actual M.

    I used to have a Blackberry and it was months before I realized I could do that, but it works. · 0 minutes ago

    Thanks, Jason.  I’ve had one for three years, and I still didn’t know.  I guess you should do those tutorials when you buy something after all.

  11. Fat Dave

    KarlUB,

    That’s another issue entirely.  I’m glad you have a well-organized county committee.  Mine used to be, but, from what I saw, my county committee did absolutely nothing, except put some signs up outside the polls, and Virginia was a “swing state.”

  12. wmartin
    She: What a nightmare.

    From everything I’ve read, it looks to me like the Democrat GOTV program starts the day after the Presidential election and runs for four years (I’m sure they’re already working on 2016).

    It looks to me like the Republican GOTV program starts some 3 1/2 years after the last election. 

    Some of this may have to do with the benefits of incumbency on the one hand and the chaos of the primary season on the other.

    It is more incumbency than party. Rove began working on the 2004 GOTV plan on January 21, 2001. But before that , Republicans had never really done GOTV at all.

  13. NormD
    liberal jim: This is the guy you wanted to run the country?   · 52 minutes ago

    No, I want the guy that spent $15M to setup recovery.org which did not even check if the Congressional District that was entered was valid, so lots money was spent in district zero.

  14. JayWoo

    My experience may be symptomatic of other, non-technological issues the campaign had with the other constituencies involved in the process.  I got everything delivered as promised and it looked as though it was all set to work on my iPhone. So, no tech snafus.

    But here in PA there was apparently duplicative effort going on that obviated the need for me to be there at all.  

    I was assigned to, and all set to work at our local polling place, but when I went to the (ironically named) Victory Center to get my poll-watching certificate, I was told we weren’t doing ORCA in PA.  A frazzled volunteer coordinator tried to explain the disconnect between high-level (i.e., Boston) decisions and ‘on the ground’ decisions, but I didn’t pursue it.  I just worked the phones instead.

    My impression was that it probably was technology and a process worth pursuing, but (as noted above) you don’t ship PDF files to thousands of people across multiple platforms 48 hours before the election and hope it works.

    Unlike the other side, we all have days jobs and needed the platform to work with a minimum of assistance.

  15. PJ

    As Dave Barry would say, “Project Orca Catharsis” is a great name for a rock band.

  16. KarlUB
    JayWoo:

    I was assigned to, and all set to work at our local polling place, but when I went to the (ironically named) Victory Center to get my poll-watching certificate, I was told we weren’t doing ORCA in PA.

    That seems to confirm my suspicions. ORCA was FUBARed, and the PA GOP said, “Screw this. We’ll do it.”

    Judging by the results in coal country, this suggests to me that county committees with some experience doing this sort of thing muddled through OK, but the same can’t be said for the rest of the Commonwealth.

  17. Pseudodionysius
    PJ: As Dave Barry would say, “Project Orca Catharsis” is a great name for a rock band. · 2 minutes ago

    Orca dead on a beach and the Stay Puft marshmallow man melts in New Jersey for Bruce Springsteen. This would make a helluva Simpson’s episode if Rob Long knew Harry Shearer.

    Oh, wait.

  18. Eric Wallace

    The Orca stories, together with the months-ago stories about programmers volunteering to write Obama’s apps, make the GOP’s grasp of technology truly embarassing. The larger conservative movement has long been a leader of New Media and I know Obama’s always got the kiddies who grew up tweeting from the womb but seriously – the Republican party has zero competence to pull off a basic mobile site with a submit form?! I think I’m sending a few volunteer emails today, there’s no excuse for this bull.

  19. Boomerang

    check this out from the Ace of Spades.

  20. Pseudodionysius
    Eric Wallace: The Orca stories, together with the months-ago stories about programmers volunteering to write Obama’s apps, make the GOP’s grasp of technology truly embarassing. The larger conservative movement has long been a leader of New Media and I know Obama’s always got the kiddies who grew up tweeting from the womb but seriously – the Republican party has zero competence to pull off a basic mobile site with a submit form?! I think I’m sending a few volunteer emails today, there’s no excuse for this bull. · 0 minutes ago

    There’s an old, old joke amongst techies who actually cut code about consultants in suits and unfortunately Team Romney followed the script right into the dumpster.

    The best thing the Repubs can do is steal a chapter from Apple’s start up days and buy some dumpy warehouse, run up a pirate flag, lock the front door and no one communicates with them except for one guy. Its a Lockheed Skunkworks for the George Gilder crowd.

    Forget turnarounds: Mitt and the SuperPAC’s need to fund Team Startup, Republican Reboot. Tony Stark: Pony up the cash.

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