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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

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
39 mins ago - Economy & Business

Workers are getting a really bad deal

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

This week's spate of data highlighted the difficulties Americans who have lost their jobs have had bouncing back from the coronavirus pandemic, and just how much those who have managed to keep their jobs have been working.

What's happening: The Labor Department reported Thursday that the productivity of American workers fell by a revised 4.2% annual rate in the fourth quarter, the largest decline in 39 years.

FBI: Trump appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot

Photo: Samuel Corum/Getty Images

The FBI on Thursday arrested former State Department aide Federico Klein, a Trump appointee who worked on the former president's 2016 campaign, on charges related to the Jan. 6 storming of the Capitol, according to a court filing.

Why it matters: The 42-year-old Klein is the first member of the Trump administration to be arrested in connection with the insurrection, which led to the former president's second impeachment and charges against over 300 people.

Biden confronts mounting humanitarian crisis at the border

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios. Photo: Pool/Getty Images     

Just over a month into his presidency, President Biden is staring down a mounting crisis at the border that could be just as bad as the ones faced by Barack Obama and Donald Trump, if not worse.

Why it matters: Immigration is an issue that can consume a presidency. It's intensely and poisonously partisan. It's complicated. And the lives and welfare of vulnerable children hang in the balance.