Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott (R) explicitly referenced Texas Republicans' gerrymandering tactics in a court brief earlier this month, acknowledging that districts were redrawn in 2011 to minimize the clout of Democratic voters.
In July, Attorney General Eric Holder filed a statement of interest, arguing that the state should be required to undergo some form of preclearance with districting plans. A month before, the United States Supreme Court had struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, meaning that the Texas redistricting plan was no longer subject to federal preclearance requirements.
In his filing, Holder called on a judge to review the districting proposal, and cited "evidence of intentional racial discrimination that was presented" in another lawsuit, Texas v. Holder in 2012. The 2012 ruling denied the state preclearance to enact a potential voter identification law, and Holder used the suit as a springboard for suggesting that similar federal approval would again be necessary.
In response to the most recent case, Abbott denied that redistricting practices were racially motivated, but revealed that political interests were very much at work.
"In 2011, both houses of the Texas Legislature were controlled by large Republican majorities, and their redistricting decisions were designed to increase the Republican Party's electoral prospects at the expense of the Democrats," read a court brief filed by Abbott.
Abbott also qualified the tactics, noting that partisan districting decisions are still constitutional, despite "incidental effects on minority voters." The brief cites Hunt v. Cromartie, a South Carolina case in which it was decided that "[a] jurisdiction may engage in constitutional political gerrymandering, even if it so happens that the most loyal Democrats happen to be black Democrats and even if the State were conscious of that fact."
Partisan gerrymandering, while legal, is an often frowned upon. Before John Paul Stevens' 2010 retirement, the then-Supreme Court justice criticized the practice, asserting that it is "very, very harmful to the community at large."
CLARIFICATION: An earlier version of this story referred to the recent filing by Eric Holder incorrectly. Holder's filing in July was a statement of interest.