Gerrymandering: Drawing Districts for Political Advantage

Analyzing the Texas districts based on a standard known as the "Efficiency Gap," Fraga argued that Texas has one of the most extreme partisan gerrymandered congressional maps in the country.

Republicans disagree, and Republican legislative leaders have already hired two high profile law firms to represent them before the Supreme Court. Packing is when a party's voters are concentrated in few districts that they win overwhelmingly.

The justices in a brief written order said they would review a redistricting case from Wisconsin, where a three-judge lower court past year invalidated a redistricting plan enacted by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin legislature in 2011.

They said the results under the legislature's map were "remarkably similar" to election outcomes under earlier, court-drawn districts.

Attorney General Brad Schimel released the following statement in response. Political parties routinely draw maps that either concentrate or dilute the other party's voters to create safe districts for their own incumbents. The Republican National Committee and a dozen large Republican states have asked the court to reverse the Wisconsin decision.

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In 2010, Republicans gained control of Wisconsin's legislature for the first time in four decades. But Republicans have an nearly two-to-one majority in the House of Delegates, he said. In 2012, for example, Democrats could have held a 17-seat majority in the House over Republicans were it not for partisan gerrymandering, according to the Bennan Center's analysis.

After the 2011 redistricting in Wisconsin, Republican candidates won 60 of the 99 seats in the State Assembly.

The United States Supreme Court has agreed to hear arguments on whether a lower court ruled correctly that Wisconsin's legislative district map is unconstitutional, and granted a stay of that lower court's order that required Assembly Republicans to draw new district lines this year. In 2004, Justice Anthony Kennedy staked out a position somewhere between those two views, saying courts could referee claims of excessively partisan redistricting, but only if they can find a workable way to do so.

The challengers in the Wisconsin case argued that the state's electoral map was carefully drawn so that the GOP was virtually guaranteed to control the Legislature for the entire decade. The liberal wing of the court - Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan - would not have blocked the order and let the redistricting proceed.

The Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that states can not gerrymander districts in an effort to reduce the influence of minority voters. "It's clearly a community that's unique and different politically than other areas". Now the court has walked through that open door, with Kennedy as the likely deciding vote once again.

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In a related ruling Monday, the high court handed Republicans a victory by blocking a lower court ruling that the state develop new maps by November 1.

"Hyper-partisan gerrymandering is an attack on our democracy".

"Partisan gerrymandering is always unsavory", Justice Samuel Alito wrote in a dissent from the ruling against North Carolina's use of race.

The judges found Republicans had gone overboard in taking partisanship into account in drawing the maps, thus violating the free association rights and the guarantee of equal protection under the law. One such standard - dubbed the "efficiency gap" - counts the number of "wasted" votes for winning candidates in districts purposely packed with the opposition party's voters, as well as for losing candidates in districts where those voters were purposely scattered.

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