The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments today in a consolidated case challenging Texas' House maps and congressional districts. Both sets of maps were struck down by federal courts last year after judges ruled they intentionally discriminated against black and Latino voters.
Justices are hearing several cases grappling with the issue of “partisan gerrymandering” – that’s when lawmakers draw lines that favor one political party over another. Abbott v. Perez, however, will answer the question of whether Texas violated the Voting Rights Act and other protections that prohibit states from writing laws that hurt minority voters.
State GOP leaders argue the maps were drawn to favor Republicans, which is legal, not to disenfranchise minorities.
Responding to an appeal by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in August, Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito temporarily blocked a lower court's ruling that would have required the state to redraw the districts ahead of the 2018 elections. Because of this action, the high court's ruling will likely not affect this year’s elections. Texas held its primary elections in April.
If the Supreme Court finds the state intentionally hurt minority voters when it drew up political boundaries in 2011, it has the option of putting the state under pre-clearance, meaning it will have to clear all future voting laws with the federal government.