Epic Whale: Romney volunteers say ‘Orca’ was debacle

November 9, 2012

Mitt Romney election day volunteers say a buggy and not-properly-tested poll-monitoring program created by the campaign stymied their voter monitoring efforts on Tuesday.

Orca, as the program was called, was designed as a first-of-its-kind tool to employ smartphones to mobilize voters, allowing them to microtarget which of their supporters had gone to the polls.

It was kept under close wraps until just before election day. Romney campaign communications director Gail Gitcho explained it to PBS on Monday as a massive technological undertaking, with 800 people in Boston communicating with 34,000 volunteers across the country.

According to John Ekdahl in a blistering post on the Ace of Spades blog, the deployment of the new program was sloppily executed from the outset, causing confusion among the volunteers. 

Ekdhal wrote that instruction packets weren't sent to volunteers until Monday night, and they arrived missing some crucial bits of information, including how to access the app and material the volunteers would need at the polls.

From what I saw, these problems were widespread. People had been kicked from poll watching for having no certificate. Others never received their pdf packets. Some were sent the wrong packets from a different area. Some received their packet, but their usernames and passwords didn't work...

By 2 pm, I had completely given up. I finally got a hold of someone at around 1 pm and I never heard back. From what I understand, the entire system crashed at around 4 pm. I'm not sure if that's true, but it wouldn't surprise me. I decided to wait for my wife to get home from work to vote, which meant going very late (around 6:15 pm). Here's the kicker, I never got a call to go out and vote.

 A volunteer from Colorado gave a similar account to the Brietbart Web site, and said "this idea would only help if executed extremely well. Otherwise, those 37,000 swing state volunteers should have been working on GOTV."  

The Romney team had seemed confident in its product before election day.  Spokeswoman Andrea Saul said on Monday it would give the campaign an "enormous advantage."  

Update: Romney digital director Zac Moffatt's response to Orca's critics 

 

 

Natalie Jennings is a Web producer for PostTV.
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Natalie Jennings · November 9, 2012