US Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the Voting Rights Act on October 4, 2022.
CNN  — 

The Supreme Court on Tuesday heard a challenge to a key section of the Voting Rights Act, presenting the conservative majority with another opportunity to whittle down the seminal 1965 law that aims to address racial discrimination in voting.

The case concerns the US congressional map Alabama drew after the 2020 census, but the questions the justices are now considering could redefine how the Voting Rights Act can be used to challenge redistricting plans in court.

Much of the two hours of oral arguments featured conservatives testing how broadly or narrowly they would need to rule to uphold Alabama’s map, which had been deemed by lower courts as likely discriminatory to Black voters. In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court had previously halted lower court orders requiring the map to be redrawn for the 2022 election.

The lawyers for the Black voters who challenged Alabama’s map, as well as US Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, cautioned the court that even seemingly minor changes to how courts handle VRA cases would drastically complicate the path minority voters have for challenging discriminatory maps in court. That in turn could undermine the political power of voters of color, while shrinking minority representation in Congress and state legislatures.

Here are takeaways from Tuesday’s oral arguments in the case, titled Merrill v. Milligan:

Wobbly conservatives could come around to ruling for Alabama – at least narrowly

After its lawyer had a rocky start Tuesday, Alabama got some signs from the court that it could win the dispute, at least narrowly. And even a purportedly modest ruling in Alabama’s favor would have major impacts on how the Voting Rights Act can be used to challenge redistricting plans.

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett had questions for Alabama’s opponents that suggested they were not yet persuaded that the state’s requests in the case should be fully rejected.