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Summary of Interview (August 12, 2004)
Richman talks about his experience on voting with the confusing butterfly ballot in Palm
Beach County. He speaks about collecting affidavits from upset voters. He mentions
the eighteen-person conference call about the butterfly ballots and the legal strategy.
After that conference call, he says his law firm was "out of the loop." He says in his
view that the butterfly ballot should have been challenged, but the decision was not to
do so. He also numbers the affidavits in the "tens, maybe hundreds" that his law firm
received, but they were never used in court. He claims that the ballot was illegal even
though the Democrats had signed off on it--but "it didn't matter to me." He adds, "There
was no real discussion about what the practical remedy would be." He argues,
however, "that you could then throw out a percentage of those ballots cast for Buchanan
on the same Gore/Bush ratio." He says that this strategy would not have been in line
with the Gore strategy to count every vote--not have some "votes taken away."
Richman describes the Bush team as following a "scorched-earth policy" to "win at any
cost, any way they could do it." He adds that the Democrats did not use their financial
resources the way they should have regarding their strategy and they did not "have a
cohesive strategy." He gives some negative comments about Joe Lieberman who
"talked negatively about our case." He says the first mistake the Democrats made was
not to challenge the butterfly ballot. He describes his involvement in the Seminole
County case regarding Harry Jacob's challenge. He says the number of votes involved
in this Seminole County controversy could have decided the election for Gore. Jacobs
contested Supervisor of Elections Sandra Goard permitting Republicans to come into
her office to add identification numbers to request forms for absentee ballots--the
Democrats were given no such opportunity. He adds, the Democrats "were outgunned."
He and his legal team remember being happy that Judge Nikki Clark was going to be
the presiding judge in Tallahassee.
Richman says his legal team had no help from the Gore team. Their initial strategy was
to challenge all 15,000 absentee ballots in Seminole County. He comments about this
trial and agreeing to "stipulation" rather than putting Supervisor of Elections Sandra
Goard on the stand. He says Goard "was clearly lying." He adds that the Republican
who went into Goard's office had the "I'm following orders kind of an attitude." He
comments on Steve Kirsch (multimillionaire who founded Infoseek) and who donated
$150,000 to help with legal costs regarding this Seminole County case. He thinks it
"was a disastrous mistake" to have two trials--Seminole and Martin counties--"because
what ultimately happened is that case [Martin County] was proceeding on the same
track, detracting from our case." He says the focus was "discrimination between what
the Democratic Party wanted to get changed on their request, and they [Goard] gave
that option to the Republicans, not to the Democrats." He comments on Judge Lewis
and Judge Clark's simultaneous ruling. He gives an anecdote about Barry Richard
being hired by the Republicans and also Dexter Douglass's comment about Richard
being a Democrat.
Richman offers his opinion of Gore: "Gore made bad decisions." Gore should not have
focused on just a few counties. He adds, "I don't believe that Republicans strictly
played by the rules" and then cites an example about what the Republicans did to him
during his run for Congress. He says Richard could have represented either side, but
he (Richman) could not have done that because political philosophy is too important.
He gives a few examples where the Bush team was being hypocritical regarding the
vote counts. He speaks about the Seminole County trial again and using the "idea of an
equitable remedy on a proportional basis." But it was shot down because the witness
"was destroyed on cross-examination"--and neither judge bought this idea.
Richman comments specifically on Judge Clark's decision. His legal team wanted to
appeal the decision but it was never appealed. "We knew it was over because they
[Florida Supreme Court] didn't set it for argument." But he adds that if his team had
"had a chance to argue it orally, we would have won." He remembers getting a call from
Mitch Berger telling him that "you're our only hope, you're our last hope." He recounts
that the Florida Supreme Court was not at all liberal--it was doing something that was
trying to follow the law, and it was just beaten down at every turn."
Richman questions Justice Antonin Scalia being on the U.S. Supreme Court "given his
family involvement." He gives his opinion of the Bush v. Gore decision: "It's just totally
wrong." He says, "I think the Democrats were wrong in focusing on the three counties,
but overall the United States Supreme Court was clearly biased in the way it rendered
its decision." He talks about the high percentage of voters who are not U.S. citizens.
Richman agrees with Douglass's advice to Gore that he should have gone to the
contest phase immediately. "[Gore] got the popular vote, but blew it in the court battles.
I think that the major person who was involved, I'm told, was Warren Christopher in
making really bad decisions." He discusses how this post-election process impacted
him personally. He says it was "exciting," a "once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience, and
the intensity was just unbelievable." He adds, "Everybody parked their egos at home
and I was like the captain of the ship so to speak [regarding the Seminole County trial]."
He says he was "very frustrated with the political process in terms of the way Gore and
his crew were handling it." He states that many lessons were learned, and that the
"general consensus [is that] Republicans are already very well organized" "for the 2004
election. He has issues with the touch screen machines. He recounts that there are no
safeguards and adequate security in the Seminole County supervisor of elections office.
He talks about getting a phone call from a Republican state senator who told him
(Richman) to drop the Seminole County case. The legal team's response was "No,
we're going for broke, we're not dropping it."