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Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

The Supreme Court heard a challenge on Tuesday over whether Texas lawmakers drew electoral maps that reduced black and Hispanic voters’ political clout, but the justices seemed ideologically divided and hesitant over whether they have the jurisdiction to issue a ruling.

Why it matters: A decision, expected by June, could force a redrawing of the boundaries of two congressional districts and nine state legislative districts before Texas' state legislature is required to do another round of redistricting after the 2020 census.

How we got here: In 2011, a federal court struck down the maps drawn by Texas' GOP-controlled legislature as unconstitutional — and quickly approved temporary ones amid impending primary election deadlines in 2012. Though the federal court warned the interim maps were subject to further legal review, Texas lawmakers officially adopted them in 2013 until a new round of redistricting takes place after the 2020 census.

  • A panel of three federal judges struck down the maps last summer, calling them racially gerrymandered, but weeks later, the Supreme Court weeks later kept the challenged maps in place, citing Texas' appeal.

The big picture: In the spirited 70-minute hearing, the liberal justices sided with civil rights groups and minority voters that Texas' GOP-controlled legislature intentionally drew districts designed to pack minorities in some and, in others, splinter them to dilute their vote. But the conservative-leaning justices seemed to assume lawmakers acted in good faith.

A focal point: The liberal-leaning justices argued that the high court currently has no jurisdiction because the panel of federal judges that invalidated the current maps last year didn't issue a final judgement before Texas appealed.

  • Chief Justice John Roberts stated that Texas acted in “good faith” because the maps the state legislature adopted in 2013 were based on the temporary ones issued by a federal court.

What's at stake: Should the justices side with Texas, Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan are worried that it would open a door to a flood of appeals. They also echoed concerns voiced during the similar pending Wisconsin and Maryland gerrymandering cases that the Supreme Court is worried about tarnishing its credibility if it wades too much into partisan squabbles.

  • Justice Anthony Kennedy, the high court's frequent swing vote, also agreed there's no jurisdiction.

What’s next: If the Supreme Court sides with the black and Hispanic voters, the case would be sent back to the lower court to remedy the alleged infractions — and redraw the districts — before 2020's round of redistricting. A victory for Texas would maintain the current maps until the planned 2020 redistricting.

Go deeper

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

  1. Health: Coronavirus variant surveillance varies widely by state — Omicron cases confirmed in 5 U.S. states America probably won't lead the effort to understand Omicron.
  2. Vaccines: Omicron adds urgency to vaccinating world — Omicron fuels the case for COVID boosters — Moderna loses patent battles tied to COVID vaccine.
  3. Politics: Nevada to impose insurance surcharge on unvaccinated state workers — New Jersey GOP lawmakers defy statehouse COVID policy — Oklahoma sues Biden administration over Pentagon vaccine mandate — Omicron travel bans are sign of what's to come.
  4. World: WHO: Delta health measures help fight Omicron — COVID cases surge in South Africa in sign Omicron wave is coming — Germany approves new restrictions for unvaccinated people.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.

Prosecutors charge parents of Michigan school shooting suspect

Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

The parents of a 15-year-old accused of killing four students and wounding seven other people at a Michigan high school have been charged with involuntary manslaughter, according to court documents.

Driving the news: James and Jennifer Crumbley were each charged with four counts of involuntary manslaughter.

3 hours ago - World

Putin to demand legal guarantee against NATO expansion in call with Biden

Biden and Putin meeting in Geneva in June. Photo: Mikhail Metzel\TASS via Getty Images

Russian President Vladimir Putin is demanding a legally binding guarantee that NATO will not expand east — including to Ukraine — and plans to raise the issue in an upcoming phone call with President Biden, according to the Kremlin.

Why it matters: Russia has massed more than 94,000 troops on the border with Ukraine and could be preparing for a large-scale invasion at the end of January, Ukraine's defense minister said Friday.