Mitt Romney's Project ORCA Failure: Broken ORCA App Cost Him Thousands Of Votes

How Mitt Romney's Broken App Cost Him Thousands Of Votes

A week before the presidential election, the campaign for GOP nominee Mitt Romney announced that it had been assembling a sophisticated poll-monitoring system, which would use smartphone technology to receive more data in real time, and redirect resources to areas where there may be low turnout to get voters there to the polls.

Romney campaign spokeswoman Andrea Saul told The Huffington Post in a statement, that Project ORCA would give the campaign an "enormous advantage on Election Day," but the app turned out to be a failure and cost Romney what could have been thousands of votes, according to The Verge.

Throughout Election Day, volunteers reported multiple problems and complaints about the app, and one aide told The Washington Examiner that ORCA (which was named after the whale) had just crashed -- "Somebody said ORCA is lying on the beach with a harpoon in it,” said the aide.

It was a perfect storm of technical issues and a confusing training program that rendered ORCA unusable and completely unhelpful to the campaign. Long before voters headed out to poll stations, experts warned that the app's training manual and its frequently asked questions could potentially confuse volunteers.

One problem was that volunteers were instructed to look for a native mobile app when Orca was a web app, and the URL was listed as an HTTPS site, but the HTTP address didn't forward users to the right page, according to John Ekdahl, a Romney volunteer who detailed the problems with the app and called it an "unmitigated disaster."

An anonymous campaign source on the Colorado team revealed to that it received hundreds of calls from volunteers who couldn't use the app or the back-up phone system. He revealed that usernames and passwords were wrong, and the reset password tool didn't work either, which meant they couldn't change phone PINs.

A North Carolina campaign worker revealed the same thing happened there: "The system went down for a half hour during peak voting, but for hundreds or more, it never worked all day ... Many members of our phone bank got up and left."

ORCA crashed completely by the afternoon, and Romney campaign digital director Zac Moffatt later admitted to CNET that the app hadn’t been properly tested.

"The primary issue was we beta-tested in a different environment than [headquarters Boston Garden]," he told the website. "There was so much data coming in -- 1,200 records or more per minute -- it shut down the system for a time. Users were frustrated by lag, and some people dropped off and we experienced attrition as a result."

Moffatt said he doesn't believe ORCA's problems hurt the campaign, and claimed it had 91 percent of all counties reported into the system. But even if the app encountered no problems on Election Day there were those who doubted whether the app would really make much of a difference for the Romney campaign.

Scott Goodstein, the external online director for the Obama campaign in 2008 and the founder of Revolution Messaging told The Huffington Post that if a candidate hasn't reached voters by Election Day, it's probably too late.

"In a national campaign, what additional things are the headquarters really going to do to move resources? Will an additional auto-call last minute really make a difference in a market like Northeast Ohio, which has been saturated for three months full of auto-calls?"

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