Project Orca and the three-foot rule. | WisCommunity

Project Orca and the three-foot rule.


So what will be the effects of the new "three foot" rule at polling places on election day?

As you know, political operatives or self-appointed election monitors, can get within three feet of poll workers instead of the previous six feet under the new law.

Immediately it conjured up fears of voters getting harassed at the polls. I don't think that will happen because contact with voters inside a polling place is still prohibited but what prompted this law in the first place?

This is troubling based on the experience in the 2012 election. Wisconsin Election Protection and the league of Women Voters issued a on polling place issues observed by their 300 observors who manned polling places statewide (myself included).

Among their findings:

"At Clara Barton School in Milwaukee, an observer stood near the voting machines and watched as voters inserted their ballots. The clerk directed him to move."

"At La Follette School in Milwaukee, an observer insisted that a voter had to produce two forms of identification to register, even though the voter's license had his correct address on it. The observer was much closer than 6 feet away and was addressing his complaints to the registrar and voter. Election Protection explained tha the voter had acceptable proof of residence."

"At Memorial Library in Madison a 'concerned citizen' observer refused to stay in an observation area and argued with the Chief that ID was required. Chief put observer on the phone with the city clerk to resolve the situation."

There are numerous other examples you can read for yourself.

But is that what the legislature had in mind in passing this bill? More rogue observers making life miserable for election officials?

I don't think so. I think has more to do with Project Orca. What, you never heard of it?

The Mitt Romney campaign hired some computer whiz kids to bring technology into play on election day. Project Orca was the result. Campaign volunteers were dispatched to key polling sites in swing states with the goal of actually gathering the names of voters as they requested their ballots and got checked off the poll list. The stated goal was to provide the campaign with real time turnout information from Republican-leaning voters and, as the day progressed, would target their get-out-the-vote efforts as needed.

The campaign volunteers would hear the names as they were checked off and enter them into a smart phone application which allegedly would match up with pre-loaded poll lists and from that the campaign would measure their progress. They would cross-match the names with the names of their supporters in that precinct.

Project Orca quickly beached. The app didn't work. The system overloaded and, in cases such as Wisconsin, the campaign workers couldn't hear the names getting checked off the poll list because of the 6-foot rule. There are instances in the Election Protection report of poll workers being asked to shout out the names as they are checked off.

If this sounds unsettling, it should. What we thought was a zone of privacy, the polling place, will be turned into a three-ring circus, looking and sounding more like the stock exchange. I just hope someone has the foresight to bring breath mints.



April 4, 2014 - 9:45am