Project ORCA
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 of votes").  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 blog
November 5, 2012

Project ORCA is a massive undertaking – the Republican Party’s newest, unprecedented and most technologically advanced plan to win the 2012 presidential election.

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 job done.

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 already voted.

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.