Abby Rapoport

Abby Rapoport is a freelance journalist, and former staff writer at The American Prospect. She was previously a political reporter for the Texas Observer

Recent Articles

Blue Cities Battle Red States

As cities have moved left and states have moved right, the conflicts between them have escalated. 

Jason E. Miczek/AP Images for Human Rights Campaign
This article appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of The American Prospect magazine. Subscribe here . When Denton, Texas, passed a fracking ban in November 2014, it was national news. The story seemed out of a movie, a David-and-Goliath tale in which a scrappy band of citizens goes up against big industry and wins. Located in the heart of oil and gas territory, the town is hardly a liberal bastion; its state representative is a staunch conservative, and among its biggest annual events is the North Texas State Fair and Rodeo. But residents were watching gas drills come closer and closer to their parks and schools. Adam Briggle, a professor at the University of North Texas in Denton, found himself attending more and more meetings as he tried to understand the environmental impact of fracking, a process used to extract oil and natural gas from the ground. Tara Linn Hunter, a music teacher, found herself with debilitating adult asthma, a condition she attributed at least partly to pollution...

Can Reformers Save Our Election System from the Supreme Court?

AP Photo/Susan Walsh
AP Photo/Susan Walsh Cornell Woolridge of Windsor Mill, Md., takes part in a demonstration outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013, as the court heard arguments on campaign finance. Over the past few years, given the bad news that just keeps coming their way, America’s campaign-finance reformers have started to look like eternal optimists. They’ve pretty much had to be. Take the one-two wallop they suffered early this spring. First, Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York state legislators killed reformers’ best chance of a breakthrough in 2014—a public-financing program in which small-dollar donations would be matched or multiplied by public funds. (New York City already runs its own “matching” program.) The idea was to give less-wealthy donors a bigger voice in legislative and gubernatorial races while decreasing the clout of those with deep pockets. Instead, reformers ended up with a microscopic pilot program for the state...

Pardon Me, Mr. President?

Flickr/Salticidae
Flickr/Victoria Pickering This week, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced the start of a new initiative on clemency, encouraging thousands of inmates—particularly those convicted during the Drug War crackdown of the 1990s—to send in petitions to have their sentences commuted. The new initiative offers six new criteria by which petitioners will be judged, including the following: prisoners must have served 10 years of their sentence, must not have lengthy criminal records or gang convictions, and show that they would have gotten off with a lighter sentence had they been tried today. In his more than five years in office, Obama has been the stingiest president in history when it comes to granting pardons; the new program could make him one of the most generous. But the biggest news for criminal-justice reformers has been the administration’s appointment of a new pardon attorney to oversee the program: Deborah Leff , who spent her years at DOJ working on the Access...

Get Ready for the Datapalooza of Election Performance!

AP Images/Toby Talbot
During the brief time in the election cycle when the voting booths are actually open, we hear a lot how smoothly elections are going—where voters are waiting in long lines, where ballots are getting rejected, and the like. Elections expert Doug Chapin, who heads the University of Minnesota’s Elections Academy, calls it “anec-data”—anecdotes substituting for hard numbers. In a presidential election, we tend to hear all about problems in swing states, since the national press corps is already there, but we’re less likely to hear about issues in Montana or Connecticut, where the election outcome is almost a foregone conclusion. Good data would make it easy to compare states’ election performance, and more importantly, let us see how states are improving or declining from one election to the next. That’s why Pew’s 2012 Elections Performance Index is a big deal. Released this week, the index uses standardized data from the U.S. Census,...

The Quality of Mercy

An evangelical Christian and former prosecutor, Mark Osler has become one of the country’s most effective advocates for criminal-justice reform. 

John Ritter
On a Sunday in September, a few minutes before the 10 A.M. worship service, Mark Osler stands in the lobby of the First Covenant Church in downtown Minneapolis. He’s just been fitted with a pencil-thin, flesh-colored microphone, the kind that pop stars wear so they can dance while belting out lyrics. Fifty-one years old and of average build, Osler is the opposite of imposing. As usual, his wiry hair is a mess. A strand flops over his forehead, giving him a slightly boyish air. With his mouth set in a straight line and his thick eyebrows knitted together, his expression tends to be serious or, if he’s lost in thought, dour. “I look like Britney Spears,” he says, a bit doubtful about the microphone. First Covenant is one of the largest churches in Minneapolis. Built in 1887, it was originally known as the Swedish Tabernacle, named after the evangelical immigrants who constructed the three-story redbrick sanctuary. Reflecting the city’s demographic change,...

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