American politicians are often compared to children. They finger-point, they’re stubborn and, at times, they can be downright manipulative. According to Justin Levitt, a law professor and associate dean for research at Loyola Law School, this immature behavior comes out in full force when it comes to drawing boundaries for voting districts. Levitt has written extensively about crafting electoral lines on his website All About Redistricting. He says that even though unfair redistricting can make the difference between voices being heard and voices being drowned out, politicians will often create these boundaries to best suit their own needs. But sometimes, when drawing questionable lines, lawmakers can get their hands caught in the cookie jar.
In particular, Levitt points to Texas, where federal judges recently found that Republicans redrew district lines that weakened the electoral power of minorities. However, in September, the US Supreme Court decided Texas does not have to immediately redraw its electoral districts until the justices come to a concrete decision.
And although the justices temporarily upheld Texas’ maps, this isn’t the first time state has run into trouble. Every 10 years, each state has to redraw their district lines, and every decade since the 1970s, at least one court has struck down Texas’ new districts. “They haven’t gone through one cycle where it’s upheld by a court,” Levitt said.
But Texas Republicans aren’t the only ones who have made this power grab when given the opportunity. In the 1990s, Levitt says Texas Democrats engineered an “enormously effective gerrymander” to keep themselves in power, even as statewide tides were shifting. So, while the state was increasingly voting Republican, Levitt says Democrats still ended up with a disproportionately high number of seats.