Abby Rapoport

The Mickey Mouse Defense

While Democrats celebrate the million petitions turned in today supporting a recall of Wisconsin governor Scott Walker, Badger state Republicans are hoping that the best offense is a good defense. "Of course the Democrats got a million signatures," said Ben Sparks, spokesperson for the Wisconsin GOP. "They're allowing individuals to sign up 80 times and they're allowing Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny to go on the rolls." Critics of the recall effort have long charged that many of the signatures gathered were invalid. However, the anti-Walker forces gathered significantly more petitions than expected (they only needed 540,000), and United Wisconsin, the group co-ordinating the effort, seemed confident that with so many extra signatures, the recall would be almost impossible to avert. Sparks, however, wasn't so eager to give up. "We have volunteers throughout the state who are working to verify these signatures," he said, noting the GOP was holding training sessions every night this week...

One Million Strong

AP Photo/Craig Schreiner
(AP Photo/Andy Manis) Jeremy Levinson, left, a lawyer to the recall committees, talks Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2012, in Madison, Wis., about the petitions United Wisconsin will turn into the General Accounting Board offices Wednesday to force a recall election for Gov. Scott Walker. United Wisconsin collected about 1 million signatures to recall Walker. Mike Tate, center, chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, listens. When I reached United Wisconsin spokesman Erik Kirkstein by phone this afternoon, he was already breathless and having trouble coming up with the neat sound bites PR people are supposed to have on hand. He was clearly ready to celebrate. "I guess you've heard—it's already been leaked," he said before exclaiming that the effort to recall Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker had gathered more than one million signatures—almost double what his opponents needed to trigger an election. "This has blown away even the highest of expectations!" He's right. The movement needed a total...

Lay of the Land

AP Photo/Eric Gay
Today, a new chapter opens in the Texas redistricting saga. The Lone Star State will begin its preclearance trial , in which it will argue that the various House, Senate, and congressional maps passed out of the legislature last year did not have a discriminatory effect on minorities. Only last week, the state was at the Supreme Court arguing over whether a federal court in San Antonio had the authority to reject the state's maps and draw new ones . In redistricting battles, the questions tend to be rather complex—did the state suppress minority voters by not maximizing the number of minority districts on the map? Does the state have a right to draw whatever maps its lawmakers wish? With multiple maps and multiple court cases, the Texas redistricting case is like a Russian novel of legal questions. Recently, I ran into state Representative Aaron Peña, one of the state's few moderate Republicans and one of its few Latino Republicans. He raised a different set of considerations about...

Stated Intentions

So this is going to be be fun, I hope. I'm the Prospect 's new "states" reporter, based in Austin, Texas. On this blog, I'll be reporting not only on the big news coming out of state capitals across the country but on the stories from small towns that connect to national debates. Given the fights over collective bargaining in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana and the looming same-sex marriage showdown in Maryland, it's easy to see how state-level news warrants attention. A little about myself: I've spent the last three years covering Texas politics. Most recently, I wrote for the Texas Observer , covering one of the meanest state legislative sessions in recent memory with horrific cuts to education and other state services. Over the last couple of years, I've covered political corruption , budget wars, and voter suppression . I've also gotten to hang out at six-man football games with the last of West Texas' Democrats , watch the fight over what version of history Texas children should...

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