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Photo: Olivier Douliery / Getty Images

The Supreme Court heard a legal challenge on Wednesday, arguing that a congressional district in Maryland was gerrymandered to favor Democrats — with an attorney claiming that the decision violated the First Amendment rights of Republican voters.

The big picture: In the spirited hour-long hearing, the justices appeared uncertain on how to rule and worried about the possibility that the court's credibility may be tarnished if it inserts itself into partisan squabbles over gerrymandering. In its history, the court has never struck down a voting map due to partisan gerrymandering.

The key takeaways:

  • Michael Kimberly, the attorney representing the Republicans, contended that Maryland's Democratic-controlled legislature “intentionally” drew the state's 6th congressional district in 2011 to boost their electoral advantage and cost a longtime GOP incumbent his seat. “They made it impossible [for opponents] to gain electoral success,” he said.
  • A majority of the Supreme Court justices indicated they may believe that what Maryland Democrats did was intentional. Justice Sonia Sotomayor highlighted "damning evidence" to that end, pointing to a deposition where then-Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, acknowledged that "it was also [his] intent" to create a district "where the people would be more likely to elect a Democrat than a Republican."
  • During the oral arguments, the justices acknowledged that some partisanship in redistricting is tolerable, but they repeatedly questioned how much is too much.

What's next: The court heard a similar case last October from Wisconsin where Democrats say the GOP-controlled state legislature gerrymandered the entire legislative map to maximize their majority. The decisions in both cases are expected by June.

Go deeper: Here's where the big redistricting court fights stand.

Go deeper

6 hours ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

Updated 7 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Most COVID-19 survivors can weather risk of reinfection, study says — "Twindemic" averted as flu reports plummet amid coronavirus crisis
  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.

The week markets went wild

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio

The markets just closed out a manic week.

Why it matters: Outsized — and in some cases historic — moves were evident across the board.