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Project Orca: How an IT Disaster Destroyed Republicans' Get-Out-The-Vote Effort 578

Posted by Soulskill
from the whale-of-a-campaign-killer dept.
cheesecake23 writes "Many talking heads have attributed Obama's success to an unmatched 'ground game.' Now, inside reports from campaign volunteers suggest that Project Orca, a Republican, tech-based voter monitoring effort with 37,000 volunteers in swing states, turned out to be an epic failure due to dismal IT. Problems ranged from state-wide incorrect PINs, to misleading and delayed information packets delivered to volunteers, to a server outage and missing redirection of secure URLs."
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Project Orca: How an IT Disaster Destroyed Republicans' Get-Out-The-Vote Effort

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  • Serves them right (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @04:24PM (#41935843)

    I guess this is what happens when your backward, anti-freedom police state party systematically alienates all the programmers and sysadmins and hackers, all the good techs and IT personnel who otherwise might have wanted to help you.

    Good riddance.

    • Re:Serves them right (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Friday November 09, 2012 @04:39PM (#41936011)

      It's like the argument put forward by Neal Stephenson in Cryptonomicon - the Allies won WWII because they had the best technology, and the reason they had the best technology was because they were't the biggest assholes.

      http://markpasc.org/blog/gems/athena.html [markpasc.org]

    • by poity (465672) on Friday November 09, 2012 @04:56PM (#41936239)

      This sort of counter-bigotry and counter-hatred is as trashy and needlessly spiteful as any the GOP side can muster. Post-election is a time for healing and a time to work towards unity. Slashdot hates the polarized atmosphere of US politics, yet here we are deepening that divide even in a time of victory. Democrats, as the victors, need to be magnanimous, not petty like this.

      • by h4rr4r (612664) on Friday November 09, 2012 @05:25PM (#41936639)

        Laughing at the rage of bigots and hate mongers is good for the country. That is healing the wounds they created. We cannot work towards unity with those who do not want it. They hate us, they curse us to their imagined hell and pray that their gods strike us down.

        I am no democrat, did not vote for Obama, but I sure am glad to see this country moving away from hate.

      • by k6mfw (1182893)

        Post-election is a time for healing and a time to work towards unity.

        Reminds me of the Star Trek TOS on the planet where everyone emulates early 20th century gangsters. Kirk says they should stop fighting each other and work towards unity. Mob boss says, "I agree but I gotta be the unity!" Fact follows fiction is what we have today.

      • Re:Serves them right (Score:5, Interesting)

        by couchslug (175151) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:33PM (#41937311)

        Bullshit. The Republican base are still as dedicated to vengeance and pursuit of theocracy as ever, and still control the House so they can and will still stonewall progress.

        The polarization of US is no accident. One cannot sit idly by waiting for ENEMIES to have a group hug. The US is too large to be one country, and as nature takes its course regionalism and the desire for self-determination rear their heads again. (The US has helped break up far smaller countries under UN auspices, but enforces Federal unity at gunpoint.)

    • Re:Serves them right (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fm6 (162816) on Friday November 09, 2012 @05:05PM (#41936363) Homepage Journal

      Can we get rid of the brainless AC posts already? They're all shoot-from-the-lip ignoramuses like this asshole.

      I'm an Obamatron, but I can't abide the Huffpost. So I learned about this fiasco from Newser, which linked a conservative web site [commentarymagazine.com] which linked John Ekdahl's blog [ace.mu.nu]. John's a Romney volunteer, and his scathing description of Orca is informed by his day job as a web developer. And the there's Pudge [pudge.net], who helped design Slashdot, and who I presume voted for Romney, unless he considers him too liberal.

      So obviously there's no absence of IT talent on the right side of the aisle. What is missing is administrative judgment by Romney himself, who obviously bought some IT snakeoil from somebody, and has generally managed to find total clowns to run his campaign.

      People keep telling me about this brilliant guy named Mitt Romney who had a brilliant academic career (MBA and JD from Harvard), did well as a management consultant and equity capitalist, and accomplished great things as Governor of MA, even though the other party controlled the legislature. But I just don't see how that can be the same guy!

    • by McGruber (1417641)

      I guess this is what happens when your backward, anti-freedom police state party systematically alienates all the programmers and sysadmins and hackers, all the good techs and IT personnel who otherwise might have wanted to help you.

      It probably didn't help that the Republicans consider Carly Fiorina and Meg Whitman to be successful at IT.

  • by AMCandel (1116349) on Friday November 09, 2012 @04:28PM (#41935883)
    Looks like all his competent IT people self-deported to the other campaign?
  • Or... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DumbSwede (521261) <slashdotbin@hotmail.com> on Friday November 09, 2012 @04:33PM (#41935931) Homepage Journal
    Perhaps more people just wanted to vote for Obama.
    I'd hate to think it all comes down to how good your IT team is (even though I'm on one).

    Then again, perhaps it is some comfort to the Republican's -- "All we have to do is better IT next time" -- and not bother to change the message.
    • by Trepidity (597)

      Yeah, in this particular election I think all these stories about GOTV efforts and ground games are unlikely to be pointing to real deciding factors. In a 2004-style election where the winner comes down to maybe, but when you're talking about 5% shifts, that starts to get out of the range of what you can get from just better phone-banking.

      • Re:Or... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Friday November 09, 2012 @04:43PM (#41936071)

        Ugh, Slashdot ate part of my comment due to a <.

        Reposting:

        Yeah, in this particular election I think all these stories about GOTV efforts and ground games are unlikely to be pointing to real deciding factors. In a 2004-style election where the winner comes down to <1%, maybe. And this year, it's plausible some better turnout operations could've flipped Florida, which Romney only lost by 0.6%. But to win overall, he'd need to flip all of: Florida (0.6%), Ohio (1.9%), Virginia (3.0%), and Colorado (4.7%). The first is plausible, and the second is on the edge of possibility, but once you're talking about 5% shifts, that starts to get out of the range of what you can get from just better phone-banking.

        • But it's not just phone banking. From my understanding, what Obama's campaign did was more Big Data oriented, gathering data on individual voters to target the right approach for each of them. Is this a persuadable voter? What issues will he/she respond to best? What method to reach them is best, a phone call or an in-person visit? And then armed with that data, following through to the local ground teams.

          I would not be shocked to learn that that kind of targeted application of persuasion, knowing t
    • by skids (119237)

      Were I to listen to my paranoia coprocessor, it would have me believe that every excuse offered that seems to shield the right from some serious soul searching also serves to make it sound like "the next time will be better" to all the mark^H^H^H^Hdonors. And the Romney team was "shellshocked" in the same way Bain Capital is when one of their holdings collapses after assuming mounds of debt to pay Bain Capital.

      But for once I will diligently apply Occam's Razor and attribute the whole mess to stupidity.

    • Re:Or... (Score:5, Informative)

      by hey! (33014) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:49PM (#41937487) Homepage Journal

      Well, you don't win elections by having more people wanting to vote for you. You win elections by having more people actually get to the polls and cast a vote for you. GOTV is critical in winning a race unless you're are totally blowing the other guy away, as in CA where Obama got almost 21% more votes than Romney.

      Still, there's something in what you say. Obama's margins in the swing states this year weren't landslides, but they were pretty solid in a lot of those states:

      NV (6EV): 4.6%
      IA (6EV): 5.6%
      CO (9EV): 3.7%
      WI (10EV): 6.7%
      VA (13EV): 3%
      NC (15EV): -2.4% (Romney win)
      OH (18EV): 1.9%
      FL (29EV): 0.5%

      It's easy to imagine that without Obama's GOTV effort he'd have lost at least FL and OH -- and conceivably (although less likely) in VA and CO. Flipping all four of those states would shift 69 electoral votes, bringing Obama down from 332 to 263 and Romney up from 206 to 275 for a bare win.

      It's easy to imagine a better Romney GOTV effort flipping Florida, maybe even Ohio, but that's not enough. He'd have to scare up another 108K Romney voters in VA who stayed at home, and in Colorado another 85K. That seems unlikely, so an improved Romney GOTV operation alone would probably not have changed this election. You'd have to get rid of Obama's GOTV operation, in which case a successful Romney operation might *barely* have flipped this to the Republicans.

      What is striking when you look at these swing state numbers is that we're talking about eight states and less than 20% of the total electoral college here. To win, a Republican has to pick up 79 of those 106 electoral votes. A Democrat has to win 32. It's no wonder the math geeks were favoring Obama so early and consistently. Writing off almost the entire Northeast and California, Republicans have to sweep the three largest swing states to win. Things are going to get tougher on the Republicans. This year, even the Cuban-Americans in Fl favored Obama; within a generation demographic changes could flip Texas to the Democrats, unless the Republicans get their act together with Hispanics.

      So blame Romney's shortcomings as a candidate if you like. Blame his GOTV effort. Blame Karl Rove, Nate Silver, or even the 47%. But don't forget to blame the Southern Strategy. It gave the Republicans a good ride for a few decades, but change is turning it into a strategic millstone around Republicans' necks. Since George H. W. Bush vs. Mike Dukakis there have been six elections, of which the Republicans have won two but *barely*. Even with Obama's economic vulnerabilities, his 332-206 win over Romney eclipses the Republicans' strongest electoral college victory in the last twenty years (286 Bush to 251 Kerry).

  • by jbeach (852844) on Friday November 09, 2012 @04:36PM (#41935979) Homepage Journal
    The Obama campaign probably had that many people in Ohio just getting the coffee.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @04:36PM (#41935983)

    After all in the case of legitimate server outage the internet has a way to repair itself

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @04:37PM (#41935987)

    In fact the escalation of calls from celebrity callers including gov Ridge urging me to vote Romney continued until minutes before the polls closed at 8pm and I had voted for Gary Johnson hours earlier.

    Romney's loss was a Romney failure, not an IT failure.

    • by justdave72 (651133) on Friday November 09, 2012 @04:42PM (#41936043)
      Yeah, I got so sick of the Romney calls that I put an IVR on my home phone line that prompted to press 1 to talk to a human, and hung up if they didn't dial anything, without ringing my phones or letting them leave voicemail. According to my logs that blocked 8 calls (the callerID on each was either unknown, or did point at a known Republican call center) during the 24 hours leading up to the election.
    • Hmm. I received several phone calls with various scare messages from people on behalf of Romney. All hours after I had voted (neither for Romney, nor Obama; gotta love those write-ins).

      "Obamacare..." -> hang-up. "blah blah blah" -> hang-up.

      Look guys, I've taken a look at the economic 'plans,' and I use that term loosely here, from both of the major candidates, and I am simply not convinced that either will work. Trying to frighten me one way or the other won't work when it's not my brain stem (fight o

  • Quote (Score:5, Funny)

    by cheesecake23 (1110663) on Friday November 09, 2012 @04:38PM (#41935995)

    I forgot to add this great tweet [twitchy.com] by the author of the final story linked in TFS when I submitted this to Slashdot:

    Long story short: Don't beta-test an election.

  • The author of the linked story at Business Insider [businessinsider.com] sounds quasi-tech and was a volunteer for the phone calls. He received an email late Monday night with a 60 page PDF of instructions and lists of names to call, and complained that he had to print it at home. Who prints PDF's when they can just view the document on their PC and make the calls, especially on a home inkjet printer?

    It sounds like not only was the development of this tool a disaster but so was implementation at the user end point. If this tech-savvy guy tried to print at home with limited success just imagine what the "regular" Romney supporters were doing (or not doing) when they got the 60 page PDF.

    • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Friday November 09, 2012 @04:42PM (#41936047) Homepage Journal
      I imagine your average Romney supporter probably looks something like your average Romney voter. Older, white, and not as well educated, especially about technology. Basically your grandfather. Send your grandfather a 60 page PDF and what is he going to do? He's going to print it out.
      • by John3 (85454)

        My dad is 82, and he won't print out more than a page or two because he's too cheap. :)

        But the guy writing the article talked about DDOS and redundancy for the servers so he probably is familiar with the ability to view a PDF (though for some reason he was surprised that he could not print b&w documents with just an HP magenta cartridge).

      • by HungWeiLo (250320) on Friday November 09, 2012 @05:11PM (#41936445)

        The average elderly Romney voter would go to the nearest public library, ask for help from the library staff, print out the PDF for free, then vote against their local library levy.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Darktan (817653)

      Who distributes a 60 page PDF when the whole rest of the operation is a web site? If they all needed internet access to use the app, why didn't the web application just give each volunteer their customized list?

      As always, the group of technomorons at the top tell you it's all digital, then give out a PDF of a scan of a fax.

    • First off, he had to print it, because he wasn't the one making the calls. He was supposed to take the list with him to the polls, cross off people who'd voted, then hand the list off to someone else who would then call the people who hadn't voted yet.

      But assuming that wasn't the case, and he just wanted to print it out: I print pdfs, especially the big ones. I like being able to flip back and forth, I like being able to write notes in the margins, and I like having my reference materials on my desk so m

    • by fm6 (162816)

      Business Insider is pretty bogus site. I have to wonder of if they even asked for Ekdahl's permission to copy his blog. Which is here:

      http://ace.mu.nu/archives/334783.php [ace.mu.nu]

  • by Revotron (1115029) on Friday November 09, 2012 @04:42PM (#41936051)
    Four times in four days, I had Democratic canvassers knock at my door and pester me about whether I voted yet. I told them yes, I voted absentee, so my choices have already been made, thanks for stopping by, have a great day, good luck, etc.

    Two of the four tried to unload pamphlet after pamphlet on me after I clearly said "Already voted, thanks for asking, our ballots are cast." By the fourth day, I was quite irked.

    How about we ditch the annoying door-to-door crap and stick to good old fashioned email spam? You can buy a precompiled list of my political viewpoints, financial status, and email addresses from ${SOCIAL_NETWORK} for pennies on the dollar. That way I can just filter and delete what I don't want to read instead of having to stand at my door trying to talk over some rambling campaign volunteer and push their papers right back at them.
  • by oh_my_080980980 (773867) on Friday November 09, 2012 @04:43PM (#41936061)
    The margins are alot higher than the Republicans want to admit...this was a first class ass whooping.

    • The margins are alot higher than the Republicans want to admit...this was a first class ass whooping.

      You do realize that the combined margins of all the swing states is about 450K votes, right? That's not a huge percentage.

  • by wcrowe (94389) on Friday November 09, 2012 @04:49PM (#41936137)

    Hmmm. That gives me an idea. Perhaps the next "Watergate" will involve cyber warfare.

  • by Beryllium Sphere(tm) (193358) on Friday November 09, 2012 @04:54PM (#41936213) Homepage Journal

    I've had painful experience of this on more than one job. Something to consider the next time someone runs with the pitch "I have a lot of money, so I know how to run the country". Some people are rich through connections, looting, or luck.

  • by gestalt_n_pepper (991155) on Friday November 09, 2012 @04:56PM (#41936245)

    The conservative Republicans - they've done it. Dozens of knee-slapping gaffes. Ideas that *laugh* in the face of tedious concepts like reality. Well done, fellows. Well done.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @04:57PM (#41936251)

    On the one hand, we have this story claiming that a failed get-out-the-vote effort was a significant factor in Romney's defeat. On the other, we have yesterday's story about how Nate Silver's statistical analysis of pre-election polls accurately predicted the outcome in all fifty states. If the first is true, then Silver's predictions were only accidentally correct, beating astronomical odds; or else Nate has somehow factored Republican IT failures into his statistical models. Neither seems plausible, so I don't believe the Orca troubles were actually very important.

  • Nonsense (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @05:10PM (#41936435)

    Ah so this is the latest fairy dust justification they've found as to why Republicans lost. Blame it on IT.

    Just more fucking nonsense.

    Modern conservatives really, REALLY can't handle having their entire worldview be shattered by reality, especially the reality that Obama was not an Evil Commie Kenyan and was not ruining "their" country like they pretended. Cognitive dissonance fueled by self delusion, but the tank is on empty now. Liars and charlatans are trying to cover their deception by blaming anything and everything to see what sticks, what allows the 'smart' guys in the party stick around with minimal guilt of hypocrisy.

    Cheers.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday November 09, 2012 @05:20PM (#41936571)

    ...is Robo-calling. In the 3 week before election I was getting more than a dozen republican robo-calls per day (I'm in Virginia, a so-called battle ground state with a tight race). Nothing says "You aren't worth my time, peasant" like a robo-call. By contrast I didn't get a single robo-call from democrats.

  • by sjames (1099) on Friday November 09, 2012 @05:39PM (#41936813) Homepage
    n/t
  • Serious denial (Score:4, Interesting)

    by bmo (77928) on Friday November 09, 2012 @05:43PM (#41936857)

    The Republicans are blaming everyone else but themselves. They've gone as far as to blame blacks for voting for the party that doesn't have candidates that publish books claiming that slavery was a "blessing in disguise."

    Romney lost because:

    1. He's slimy. He was an Etch-A-Sketch candidate.
    2. Rather than court the independents that could have won the election for him, he courted the fringe. He picked that lunatic Ryan for VP.
    3. He thought he was using the neocons. Wrong. The neocons used him. They were going to glom on to anyone who won the primaries and anyone paying attention saw this.
    4. Because of #1, nobody could trust him, not even his fellow Republicans and certainly not Roger Ailes. Remember how Fox tried to hilight everyone except him before the primaries were done and then had to reluctantly back him after?
    5. Not even the Mormons trusted him.
    6. He even lost his hometown of Belmont MA, which is full of rich WASPs just like him.

    People who know him didn't trust him. It showed.

    Combine that with the utter vile rhetoric coming from GOP the last 4 years, is it any surprise that everyone with two brain cells to rub together disliked him far more than they did Obama?

    Out of all the candidates that were backed by Roger Ailes' SuperPac, none won. Just look at the clown show that the primaries were, and the GOP picked a clown as a result.

    Introspection is required. Until then, it's going to be a long cold winter of discontent for the GOP.

    --
    BMO

  • by bmo (77928) on Friday November 09, 2012 @06:01PM (#41937027)

    From elsewhere:

    mrshowrules [TotalFark] 2012-10-30 12:44:56 PM

    List of People Conspiring Against the GOP, and therefore, America
    (LOPCATGOPATA for short):

    Liberals, Democrats, Socialists, Community Organizers, Geologists, Biologists, Meteorologists, Climatologists, Atheists, Muslims, Jews, Satan, ABC, NBC, CNN, CBS, PBS, All of cable news except FNC, The New York Times, The LA Times, The Washington Post, The Associated Press, Reuters, BBC, The Guardian, Black People, Mexicans, Human Rights Activists, SCOTUS, Europe, Movie Industry, Television Industry, Environmentalists, ACLU, The United Nations, Labor Unions, Colleges, Teachers (including kindergarten teachers), Professors, ACORN, National Endowment for the Arts, Gays, Judges, NPR, Paleontologists, Astrophysicists, Museums (*except Creationism Museum), WHO, WTO, Inflated tires, The Honolulu Advertiser, The Star Bulletin, Teletubbies, Sponge Bob and Patrick, Nobel Prize Committee, US Census Bureau, NOAA, Sesame Street, Comic Books, Little Green Footballs, Video Games, The Bible, CBO, Bruce Springsteen, Pennies, The Theory of Relativity, Comedy Central, Young People, whatever the hell a Justin Beiber is, Small Business Owners, Math, CPAC, Navy SEALs, The Economist, The Muppets, Iowa Republicans, Low-Flow Toilets, Breast Cancer Screenings, Chrysler, Clint Eastwood., Robert Deniro, Tom Hanks, Glenn Frey, Norman Rockwell, James Cameron, Dr. Seus, Nuns, Supreme Court Justice John Roberts, Jonathan Krohn at age 17, Fact Checkers, Australia, Mitt Romney, Rasmussen, Fox News, Lockheed Martin, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Paul Ryan, Debate moderators, Ben Stein, Soup kitchens, Chris Christie

    And now we can add "The IT Department" to the list.

    --
    BMO

  • by billybob_jcv (967047) on Friday November 09, 2012 @08:48PM (#41938697)
    ... IT gets blamed for everything.

Recent research has tended to show that the Abominable No-Man is being replaced by the Prohibitive Procrastinator. -- C.N. Parkinson

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