The Romney campaign's Project ORCA was intended to help the campaign
maximize its turnout on Election Day. Some 34,000 volunteers on
the ground in polling places around the country would send in their
reports to the war room at TD Garden in Boston, where 800 staff would
use the information to make sure that every last Romney supporter
turned out. Romney for President Director of Voter Contact Dan Centinello was a key figure in
the development of the project. However, volunteers reported
many problems and frustrations. In a widely
circulated account, volunteer John Ekdahl, writing at Ace of Spades HQ (+) described receiving
a 60-page PDF packet on how to use the system on Monday afternoon, Nov.
5. Not exactly user-friendly.
Project ORCA was also not adequately tested, and the volume of reports
caused the system to crash at one point. The failure inspired some
blistering coverage (sample headlines: Breitbart - "Inside Orca: How the Romney Campaign
Suppressed Its Own Vote;" The
Verge - "Killer fail: how Romney's broken Orca app cost him thousands
Even if it had functioned perfectly, Project ORCA very probably would
not have helped Romney win; the increased minority share of the
electorate ultimately tipped the balance to Obama.
from Romney for
President via the Powerline
November 5, 2012
Project ORCA is a massive undertaking – the Republican Party’s newest,
unprecedented and most technologically advanced plan to win the 2012
The project operates via a web-based app volunteers use to relay the
most up-to-date poll information to a “national dashboard” at the
Boston headquarters. From there, data will be interpreted and utilized
to plan voter turnout tactics on Election Day.
Project ORCA enhances and magnifies the impact of the turnout
operation. To date, we have more than 34,000 volunteers throughout the
target states, and we will have more than 800 volunteers at
headquarters in Boston, who will serve as a sort of “help desk,” making
sure volunteers in the states have everything they need to get their
It is estimated that Project ORCA will decipher 18 to 23 million people
have voted by the time all voting has concluded. This massive
“sample size” not only ensure the most accurate ballot projections
ever, but it will also ensure hyper-accuracy of our supporter targeting
as we work to turn them out to the polls.
The general idea is to conduct the world’s largest exit poll.
Through Project ORCA, at any given moment we will know the
current ballot in every State, DMA & County… For example: if we
happen to be down in a state at lunch time, we can pinpoint exactly
what is causing. So, if we know we’re going to win X state by 3 points,
let’s move our resources to Y state, county. In sum, Project ORCA
will give us an enormous advantage by being able to know the current
result of a state.
Another key component to Project ORCA is state-of-the-art dashboard.
For the past several months, a “brain” has been built into this
dashboard and it will take-in, analyze and recommend actions on the
millions of pieces of incoming data. In the fast-paced
environment of an Election Day command center – having this programmed
“brain” will alert decision-makers to key findings and suggest
reallocation of resources.
Project ORCA will also allow us to filter out Romney supporters who
have already voted from all of our GOTV lists. So all volunteers,
whether physically at a phone bank or calling online will no longer be
calling several supporters who have already cast a vote. Instead,
we’ll see an unprecedented efficiency among volunteer turnout efforts
where virtually no phone calls or time is wasted calling those who have
The idea for Project ORCA started in the primary, when the campaign had
people working together both in the states and in Boston. Volunteers in
precincts of key states called in reports on voting to those working
from headquarters in Boston.
In the primary, we learned it was difficult to be working from
Boston and really affect voter turnout in the states. It was
disappointing to receive data later and realize if we had access to
that data earlier, we could have done something differently and
affected the outcome.
We have tweaked and improved Project ORCA throughout primary, so
going into the general, we had several ideas and more time to
incorporate those ideas into a system that would work nationally.
Romney for President photo of the
war room set-up at TD Garden.