The Mitt Romney campaign had a big idea this cycle that was supposed change the way GOTV works on election day. They called it Project ORCA. According to John Ekdah at Ace of Spades HQ, Republican volunteers were told it was “the Republican Party’s newest, unprecedented and most technologically advanced plan to win the 2012 presidential election” and it involved automating strike lists on election day.

Volunteers were supposed to be deployed to the polls with the ORCA app on their phones to check off names as people showed up to vote. The information would be sent to the national headquarters so they could check the voter off the list. This would enable the campaign to avoid wasting resources contacting people who already voted throughout the day.

Here in Ohio, we received multiple reports of Republicans using ORCA on their phones and iPads. We heard concerns that the ORCA volunteers were slowing down lines or interfering with the voting process. There was general grumbling and concern about it all day. It turns out we were wasting our time worrying.

According Ekdah, Project ORCA was an “Unmitigated Disaster“. He details a long list of issues that indicate this massive undertaking lacked the necessary “planning, training and coordination” to be successful.

His closing sums it all up:

The end result was that 30,000+ of the most active and fired-up volunteers were wandering around confused and frustrated when they could have been doing anything else to help. Like driving people to the polls, phone-banking, walking door-to-door, etc.

Combine this failure with the campaign’s unorthodox choice of holding rallies in Ohio and Pennsylvania on election day, taking hundreds, if not thousands, of staff and volunteers away from vital GOTV activities, it’s clear many of Team Romney’s wounds were self-inflicted.

Update: To get a sense of how bad it was, here are some tweets from Romney supporters left high and dry by ORCA’s failure:

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