Nov 16 2012

The Disaster That Was GOP GOTV On Election Day

Published by at 9:49 am under 2012 Elections,All General Discussions

Major Update: More pathetic details here:

As the Web traffic from volunteers attempting to connect to Orca mounted, the system crashed repeatedly because of bandwidth constraints. At one point the network connection to the campaign’s data center went down—apparently because the ISP shut it off. “They told us Comcast thought it was a denial of service attack and shut it down,” Dittuobu recounted. “(Centinello) was giddy about it,” he added—presumably because he thought that so much traffic was sign of heavy system use.

Major Update: More details are emerging on the mess that was Romney’s GOTV debacle:

But Orca turned out to be toothless, thanks to a series of deployment blunders and network and system failures. While the system was stress-tested using automated testing tools, users received little or no advance training on the system. Crucially, there was no dry run to test how Orca would perform over the public Internet.

I surmised as much from seeing the results. Being someone who has worked on some of this nation’s largest command and control systems, it was obvious what happened here. That’s amateur hour, and it cost us all – end update

Sorry for the not posting, but elections matter and I had to take steps to ensure we can ride out the coming economic storm. Besides, I needed some space to analyze the debacle that was this election instead of just reacting. The day after the election the hard truth showed up on what happened, and it explained a lot. Before I get to that, realize that the Absentee/Early vote effort by Romney and the GOP was damn good. So good there should have been no way to lose CO – but they did. So good they should have taken some Senate seats, but they did not. So good that if they won (as usual) the election day GOTV (Get Out The Vote), we would not be here.

But they did not.  And we know why.

Here is the sad tale of technical incompetence that led to the 2012 election debacle, and its name is “ORCA“:

The entire purpose of this project was to digitize the decades-old practice of strike lists. The old way was to sit with your paper and mark off people that have voted and every hour or so, someone from the campaign would come get your list and take it back to local headquarters. Then, they’d begin contacting people that hadn’t voted yet and encourage them to head to the polls. It’s worked for years.
From the very start there were warning signs. After signing up, you were invited to take part in nightly conference calls. The calls were more of the slick marketing speech type than helpful training sessions.

On one of the last conference calls (I believe it was on Saturday night), they told us that our packets would be arriving shortly. Now, there seemed to be a fair amount of confusion about what they meant by “packet”. Some people on Twitter were wondering if that meant a packet in the mail or a pdf or what. Finally, my packet arrived at 4PM on Monday afternoon as an emailed 60 page pdf.

OK, full stop. This is to be a massive, coordinated campaign to monitor the voting and get people out. It takes time and preparation for those 100’s of thousands of volunteers to be trained, outfitted and ready to execute. Yet some idiot waits to the bloody last day to get the instructions out? 60 pages on a Monday afternoon for a coordinated plan of attack to be implemented the next morning?

Are you ‘effing kidding me! This is incompetence writ large. That material needed to be out 4 weeks earlier. It required people to be registered and able be vote monitors:

At 6:30AM on Tuesday, I went to the polls. I was immediately turned away because I didn’t have my poll watcher certificate. Many, many people had this problem. The impression I got was this was taken care of because they had “registered me”. Others were as well. But apparently, I was supposed to go on my own to a Victory Center to pick it up, but that was never communicated properly.

While I was home, I took to Twitter and the web to try to find some answers. 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.

So now the GOP had lost ALL insight into what is happening on the ground. The entire project relies on knowing who has and has not voted. They were blind while Team Obama knew what was happening because their people were in place. This explains why GOP vote monitors were being kicked out everywhere.

Again, what moron tries to execute a tactical effort like this at the last second? And if you think this was the worst of it, the technology behind this disaster was not ready for prime time either:

Now a note about the technology itself. For starters, this was billed as an “app” when it was actually a mobile-optimized website (or “web app”). For days I saw people on Twitter saying they couldn’t find the app on the Android Market or iTunes and couldn’t download it. Well, that’s because it didn’t exist. It was a website. This created a ton of confusion. Not to mention that they didn’t even “turn it on” until 6AM in the morning, so people couldn’t properly familiarize themselves with how it worked on their personal phone beforehand.

By 2PM, I had completely given up. I finally got ahold of someone at around 1PM and I never heard back. From what I understand, the entire system crashed at around 4PM. I’m not sure if that’s true, but it wouldn’t surprise me.

You NEVER launch something this complex hours before it must execute. The nimrods who were behind this should go find another career, like ditch digging. You NEVER wait to the night before to send out a complex tactical plan. You leave time for screw ups to be corrected. You rehearse, you checklist. You NEVER deploy a website or app without brutal load testing. Everything should be up, running and working like a fine Swiss Watch.

What we got in the Romney GOTV were technical amateurs and incompetents. They took what was a huge wave of momentum and cut the knees out from it on the day the GOP usually carries the day.

You can point fingers everywhere you want, but the proof is in CO where the early voting had the GOP at historic highs and in the lead. Yet, in the end, Romney’s Orca was still able to grasp defeat from the jaws of victory in Colorado. And since this occurred across the nation, it is also clear it was a systemic problem.

Elections are about having the best team win. And given this royal screw up (which could amount to 2-4% in the vote tallies), it is clear the best team did win.

More here at Breitbart:

 … the absolute failure of Romney’s get-out-the-vote effort, which underperformed even John McCain’s lackluster 2008 turnout.

Romney volunteers in Virginia confirmed that the campaign had relied entirely on Project Orca to turn out the vote in key areas such as Roanoke, where Romney and Ryan had made appearances. Volunteers who had driven to Virginia from safely-Republican Tennessee were shocked at the disorganization they encountered.

If each of the 37,000 volunteers that had been devoted to Orca had instead brought 20 voters to the polls in those states over the course of the day, Romney would have won the election.

Next Up: The Petraeus War & How Obama’s “Stazi” Tried To Silence The Truth of Benghazi

15 responses so far

15 Responses to “The Disaster That Was GOP GOTV On Election Day”

  1. dhunter says:

    I was ORCA volunteer! I got my credentials papers from my victory office via email and had no trouble accessing the polling place. The training was fine, it was not too tough to check off names on a cell phone.
    Thats the positives.
    I asked for two weeks for the app from Dan. I recieved my polling place and the county courthouse assigment about ten days prior as I was also a county captain assigned with reporting in real time the results which didn’t matter as we got our butts kicked.
    My “app” arrived at 11:55 PM on the 5th of Nov and as I was sound asleep awaited me at 6:00 A.M. election day.
    Fortunately I have a decent home printer and printed off 29 pages including the total voter list for my precinct which was 1/2 of a polling place holding two precincts. The one who was assigned the precinct on the other side of the curtain showed up at noon.
    I fired up the android connection but could not connect so called in and was told to keep trying as high traffic crashed the servers. Meanwhile checked off names on the paper list. At 11:00 A.M i was able to log in and checked off what I thought was very heavy R traffic including the names on my paper list. At 1:00 things slowed and the thing crashed again Frustrating! I was able to get in again at three but it worked in spurts and sputters. I knew we were screwed!
    In my county the most conservative congress member Steve King beat Christy Vilsack, a carpet bagging former governors wife.
    Virtually every other R lost including Romney. It was the early vote that sank them.
    The Rs were all ahead until the next to last precinct came in which was 44, the early and absentee ballots and everything went upside down to D Except King and barely Romney!
    Romneys lead was down to 110 and in the days after, the absentees and provisional ballots doomed him to a loss.
    i witnessed many provisional ballots cast by new comers to the precinct I didn’t recognize and voters bringing in absenttees they never mailed also whom i did not personally know. Until the GOP gets voter ID and better elections security we are doomed.
    The GOTV opersation from Team Obama was devistating. Every time Bill C or Moochelle came to town the busses rolled form the event to the nearest ealry voting polls. Lots of easrly votes were banked and I be a lot of votes were cast twice and in multiple precincts. No way for a casual observer to prove it.
    A huge disappointment!
    My question was is and always will be:
    Who enters the booth and votes Steve King but not Romney. Why did King out perform Romney?
    3 ideas;
    1) Some evangelicals voted King but could not vote Mormon, 2) Some D’s could only figure out how to color in one circle , Obamas, yes these folks are this stupid, 3) Vote fraud and multiple votes for Obama

  2. dhunter says:

    Sorry for the spelling errors above.
    I am sick of the BUSHMCSAMEROMNEYROVE miserable failures.
    Romney beat the oppo by bashing them unmercifully in the last seven days of the primaries and using his surrogates during the debates. He slandered and scorched Newt driving his numbers from 9 up to a loss.
    He had no such plans for Obama preferring to pander to the moron moderates thus allowing the Lying POTUS to skate to election with 50% approval numbers. Exactly the mistake MCSAME made.
    I am done with the REPUNKS I will register Independent and let the GOP nominate the next Old White Rich Guy and lose. If a palin does not arise I will go Ron Paul I am Tea Party first and do not like the spineless whimps in the R Party any better than the Liars in the D.
    I feel sorry for my kids and thiers as now they will not know the freedoms I was unable to pass on to them thanks to the Karl Roves Ed Gillepies, George Bushs’ and MCSAMEROMNEYS. I weep for my formerly great country and my children and their children.

  3. mbabbitt says:

    I am not surprised. The Republicans in politics seem techno-challenged. I had problems donating to the Romney campaign for 3 months. Their Shopping Cart Donation page was terrible. I tried donating with Windows XP, Windows 7, with IE 8 and IE 9, respectively, and on 3 different machines on different networks. The prompt text would not disappear upon typing and after all the fields were filled in correctly, upon Submit, I would get error messages stating the database field name that was incorrect. billingaddress1, billingstate, billingzip – and they were filled in correctly. I wrote the campaign and someone did call me up and said they were aware of problems but that I would be able to donate by the phone! I wrote and said the webmaster who allowed this error to continue should be fired. Just unacceptable that someone would allow the campaign site donation page to exhibit such a defect for so long. I wonder how much money they lost.

  4. Mike M. says:

    I’d heard about this mess, and AJ reflects my assessment. If you’re relying on software, you damned well test the stuffing out of it. And if you’re smart, it’s not one system, but independent systems for each state – or district.

  5. penguin2 says:

    Despite the disaster ORCA was, and certainly the resources could have been used elsewhere, I’m not blaming our loss on it. We got through the 2008 election without ORCA.

    I think we over estimated the enthusiasm for Romney, though from the visuals of his campaign events, it certainly seemed to be there, and usually, that is enough to help momentum and and bring the side-sitters along. In this case, there were obviously GOP voters who stayed home or did not vote for him when they went to the polls. Some of these voters were likely anti-Mormon, some were conservatives who did not accept Romney (though taking their ball and going home after the primary is going to prove catastrophic for them too).

    Absolutely voter fraud is involved, but we’ve always had to make up better numbers than the Dems to counteract their fraud. Nothing new there. Early voting is a sure fire fraud route, and the continuance of these kind of corruptions of our voting system destroys all integrity of the vote. Unfortunately, we don’t have the urban pockets of people to just bus over to the inner city precinct to cast a vote for their guy.

    Byron York had a good article regarding the “missing white voter/”soft” Republican vote in Ohio; it’s applicable to Va. and Florida too.

    There are few people who didn’t KNOW to go the polls on Tuesday, ORCA might have been able to capture them, but ultimately, I think we overestimated Romney’s ability to connect for the voters on our side. According to the polls, Romney beat Obama on almost every issue, except…”he’s cares.” Voters fell for the charismatic fraud currently in the WH and getting great press.

  6. jan says:

    I was one of those who was totally shocked Romney lost. Like others voiced here, I was expecting that ‘silent majority’ to roll out in droves to vote Obama out of office. The discontent with this president was in the air. And, the enthusiasm at public events was palpable.

    So, the fact that Romney came in under McCain’s numbers seemed unbelievable!

    My ‘evolving’ take on the election autopsy, though, is that Romney as president would have been much better suited for him than Romney the candidate. I don’t think he had the instincts for campaigning or the narcissistic pleasure it gives people, like Obama, for the adulation of crowds or the praises of peers and surrogates, that are automatically slathered over candidates by others at every stump speech. Romney actually appeared uncomfortable, as he awaited his turn to speak, just like he seemed vaguely awkward at the RNC event when he sat in the audience, not standing up to publicly receive an approving audience applause. He also kind of recoiled when being forced to bring out deeds of charity in his own past, for the sake of raising his likability quotient, so he could compete with Obama’s one.

    Romney’s expertise was the economy, numbers, solving internal problems etc.. But, to get to that position he had to first win over the people, let his own guard down, be someone he really wasn’t. He tried, it just didn’t go over well. I honestly don’t think it’s in his nature to do open battle, and take a lower road in order to win. Although his campaign was fierce in the primaries, I think it was more his surrogates who soiled themselves rather than Romney. In the general election I believe Romney felt that simply hammering Obama’s dismal record, coupled with the obvious stats and states of people’s lives around them, would be enough to motivate the populace into taking a chance on him. So he didn’t attack Obama personally, stayed focused on the economy and jobs, only once stuck his head out addressing Benghazi (which was slammed by the MSM), and didn’t defend himself properly on attacks he saw as below the belt,

    He also didn’t pander, cheat, bribe people with cell phones, drag them in by the bus-loads to vote, and who knows what else, just to increase the ground game numbers. Instead, Romney ran a civil, and above-board campaign, trusted the people’s judgment to vote for substance rather than tripe and lies, while his opponent played ugly, bare-knuckles street fighter all the way. And, in the end the adage proved right once again, that nice guys usually finish last.

  7. penguin2 says:


    You summary is so right.

  8. lsheldon says:

    If you build it they will come.

    You don’t have to shanghai them.

  9. kathie says:

    Yep Jan, you hit the nail on the head.

  10. patrioticduo says:

    In short, Romney was too humble. Something that I respect in a person; but that doesn’t win elections. Oftentimes, the best leaders are humble; but they must know how to show leadership when it matters most and surely a Presidential election is one of those times where it matters. Romney should have had his own management talent showing throughout his own campaign. In my opinion, Romney has far less experience than his campaign would have us believe. Is the GOTV fail symptomatic of that failure to lead? Could be.

  11. Mordecai Subaru says:

    Only the 2nd time I have posted Lame Cherry
    Because this time it is absolutely deserved:

    That is not some conspiratorial thing Obama was chattering on about, but it was a reality that the GOP does indeed have powers that be. One can examine the Romney backers and soon realize they were the people who spiked oil prices in California and in the east after the hurricane, while dropping prices in Romney states.
    They were Wall Street people dropping stock prices and defense contractors who laid off people. They were the people who put a great deal of effort in luring Sarah Palin out and then terrifying her by cutting her off to a Gabby Giffords end by Libyan missiles all so Romney would have a clear shot at being a strawman.
    See these powers that be had it all worked out, that no matter Romney or Obama they would profit in carnivore capitalism. Business is what they do, and they rape every American and none of this matters to them as they are the same coin in global feudalism.


    It Is Long

    Read the whole thing


  12. Jonas Parker says:

    I an officer (1st VC) in Az LD18. Following is a letter from our chairman (she and I both work in IT, btw… we ‘get’ the tech stuff) to some PCs who were fretting that we weren’t high-tech enough in our GOTV effort. Fits this discussion I think. (We swept every office in our legislative district, btw. Every one… in a Dem leaning district)

    (Letter begins:) I hope that LD18 will focus on improving LD18’s ground game, not fretting over the RNC’s — at least until we have smashed the Dems so hard that the RNC comes to us asking what we’re doing down here, because that’s when they’ll be ready to listen. Let me share some facts with you about the election in LD18.
    • This district (as it is now constituted) went for Obama in 2008, and for Terry Goddard in 2010. LD18 was hand-carved by the AIRC as a great big, blue-ribboned gift to the Dems.
    • At the LD18 Dems’ May meeting, their County and State Chairs attended and spoke. They said that LD18 was the lynchpin of their plan to turn Arizona blue: If they can take LD18, they can take the state. If they can’t, then the state remains red.
    • They spent $700,000 attacking our state legislators. Not counting Kyrsten Sinema’s budget or any other races. Just the legislative race.

    So how did that work out for them? Here’s what happened in LD18.
    • Senator McComish beat Janie Hydrick by 8.5 points.
    • Representatives Dial and Robson beat Harris and Fisher by a combined 8.8 points.
    • We delivered a nearly 5-point margin for Vernon Parker.
    • Flake won by one point, Romney by 4.8 points.
    • Our Corp Comm slate beat theirs by a combined 5 points.
    • We elected five of our six school board candidates, defeating an incumbent and a single-shot Dem with name ID.
    • We are on our way to making LD18 a safe Republican district. A hand-carved, heavily targeted district that went for Obama in 2008 — could become a safe Republican district in the next Presidential election cycle.

    Do you want to know how well that zappy high-tech system worked for the Dems in projecting their election returns? Their chairman called Diane toward the end of Election Day and said with utter confidence, “Diane, we’ve got this. You’re only going to get one of your guys elected. We’re taking the other two seats.” Heh. Surprise.

    I’ve read the articles about ORCA and I’ve come to the exact opposite conclusion: “Old fashioned ground game” would have won the Presidential election. The RNC’s biggest problem was that they assumed that having technology like the Dems’ was going to be a magic bullet that would guarantee fantastic turnout.

    Their poll watchers were turned away because they didn’t have credentials. It was just assumed that they would bring them.

    Their volunteers didn’t receive instructions until very late on the night before the election. It was just assumed that they would all be waiting up that night, checking their email for a 60-page PDF to print and read and take with them.

    When their system crashed, they had no backup plan. They figured they didn’t need one. It was just assumed that ORCA Would Save Us.

    There were 40,000 volunteers dedicated to ORCA. Forty. Thousand. What if those 40,000 volunteers had each picked up a 4-page call sheet like the ones we were using and called 100 lower-propensity Republican voters in the critical areas? Would four million votes have helped elect Mitt Romney? Want to avoid calling people who’ve already voted? Fine. Call them the day before and tell them where their polling place is. Because, guess what: All across the country, those polling places had changed because of redistricting.

    We had that data here, without spending a dime on a computerized system. We made good use of it, and we sent Republican turnout through the roof. Crossing voters off of a list wasn’t really that helpful to us and probably wouldn’t have made much difference even if it were automated; we had people who burned through a whole precinct’s worth of voter calls in a few hours and came back for more. We can improve our process, but honestly, we don’t need a high-tech system to do it. Automated list routing would be nice, if it worked well, because it would save us some time. But FTIN had that, and walking an FTIN “walking route” took me three times as long as using a plain old street-order alphabetized list.

    Now, here is the truth about the Dems’ vaunted high-tech GOTV system: It doesn’t increase turnout. Or have you not read yet that Obama got about 9 million fewer votes than he got in 2008? What their high-tech GOTV system does is the same thing their high-tech social media fundraising system does: It provides a fig leaf for fraud, a steady income source for campaign consultants, and a rope-a-dope for Republicans desperately seeking a magic bullet.

    Republican poll inspectors were kicked out of polling places in Pennsylvania and Ohio precincts. In those precincts, guess what — Obama received between 99% and 100% of the vote. Do you think that’s because the Republicans didn’t have rVotes?

    Obama received hundreds of millions in unverified “small donations” online. Do you think that’s because he had a good social media campaign?

    Anyone who’s bought the campaign consultants’ marketing hype that copying the Democrats’ fig-leaf systems is going to magically win elections for us needs to take a step back and focus on what really works and has worked for generations: Neighbors reaching neighbors. Palm Pilots are cool, but optional and prone to technical failure. In the districts that purchased rVotes, chairmen complained that the information wasn’t current, the interface was complicated, and it was one more thing they had to spend time learning and training on. Marj’s precinct is one of the most effective in our district. Marj had full-district access to Voter Vault, but logged in only once. She requests and uses a paper printout of all her voters. But more importantly, she knows them, because she visits and talks with them.

    This year, the RNC spoke on the importance of “quality voter contact,” but it still structured its expectations and reward system around call and knock quotas. The calls made by the RNC are often drone-like, dispassionate, and impatient. The contrast between this and the calls our PCs made to their neighbors in the office is heartbreakingly obvious. People like Marj and the Club West ladies who came in every day are making actual connections with their voters, answering their questions, getting them fired up and eager to vote.

    That’s what Precinct Committeemen are supposed to do, and what helps to strengthen the party over time. Sadly, for the last decade or longer, PC recruitment has been largely dedicated to stockpiling proxies for one side or another in battles for control over the party. And so when half of our district’s PCs get involved in a GOTV effort, we are overjoyed and other districts wonder how we got such amazing participation. Infighting has destroyed the party’s effectiveness in everything from fundraising to getting out the vote. Now we need to rebuild. Power in the party will come when we can deliver consistent results and our elected officials realize that they don’t have to cut deals with union bosses to keep their jobs intact and their legislation in place.

  13. jan says:

    An informative post Jonas, leaving much to process. Thanks for taking the time…

  14. Redteam says:

    jan, as usual, I agree with your assessment. I too, think Romney would make a better president than a campaigner. Had he done as well against Obama as he did in the primaries, I think he might have prevailed. In the end he was much the same as McCain, in the campaign, he acted as if he didn’t really ‘care’ if he won or not. He kinda had the image of “I’m the better candidate, certainly better than Obama, I’m confident people recognize that and now all I have to do is not screw up between now and the election.” I felt much as many Republican did, that the people were so down on Obama that it was gonna be a ‘tea party’ blow out. Well, it didn’t work out, the people on handouts saw that they were in danger, so they are the ones that ‘tea partied’ the election. Next election, someone that will grip the Dimocrat by the jugular, has to be nominated. No more ‘laid back’ candidates. Maybe we need Sarah Palin.

  15. jan says:

    Ah Redteam,

    I can’t ever recall being so reflective following an election. It’s one of those “What’s it all about” moments for me. While people are already gearing up for 2016, I’m still trying to get through 2012 with some kind of equilibrium and poise, especially with regards to the multitudes of people (friends) I know who voted for Obama. Living in CA, is a liberal petri dish, and it sure is difficult being one of the few organisms around here who doesn’t feed off of the social progressive agar.

    Anyway, as much as I can even contemplate future elections, I think you are right that the GOP will have to change it’s methodology in how to deal with the dems lying and brutally vicious way of campaigning — more constructed to deconstruct their opponent than it is to clarify and differentiate the issues that stand between them. The very fact that Obama could be reelected on such a vapid message for the next four years, as he stood in front of a record showing more failures than successes in the past four years, is nothing short of astounding to me!.

    It causes me to look around at my fellow man, becoming quite dispirited with their ability to see through the fog of entitlements and short-term goodies enticing their support, in order to chose the more durable, long term measures a candidate may have to offer, insuring the freedoms and lifestyles of future generations to come, rather than just favoring their own immediate needs and pocketbooks.