The state has picked up four congressional seats due to the 2010 census, which shows a population growth of more than 4 million over the previous census. Most of the increase has come from the Hispanic population.
A plan approved by the Republican-dominated Texas Legislature favors the GOP, and does not maximize Hispanic voter power. However, Texas must get "pre-clearance" from a three-judge Washington panel or the U.S. attorney general under the Voting Rights Act before making changes in voting procedures.
The Legislature's plan has been tied up in the Washington panel, and a three-judge federal panel in San Antonio was ordered to come up with an interim plan. That second panel's plan maximizes new Hispanic voting power, and if it wins out in the Supreme Court it could allow Democrats to pick up three of the four new seats in Congress.
During argument, only Justice Antonin Scalia appeared prepared to accept the Legislature's plan, SCOTUSBLOG.com reported. Justice Elena Kagan appeared ready to let Texas use any part of the Legislature's plan not under challenge, then bear the burden of showing that the challenged portions are constitutional, the report said.
Justice Anthony Kennedy, often a key swing vote, appeared ready to let the federal judges' panel in Texas investigate whether the Legislature's plan violates the one-person, one-vote constitutional guarantee, SCOTUSBLOG said.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule quickly in the case so Texas can get on with its 2012 elections for the state House and Congress. The Legislature's plan for the state Senate is not under consideration by the high court.