It might seem a stretch for Texas' top elected officials to be intensely interested in such minutiae as the planning commission's jurisdiction and voting boundaries in Shelby County, population almost 200,000, in the middle of Alabama.But a lawsuit that Shelby County has taken to the U.S. Supreme Court could determine Texas' flexibility under the federal Voting Rights Act. And Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott is aggressively cheering on Shelby County's claim that a key part of the 1965 law is an unconstitutional imposition on states' sovereignty.Should the justices buy into that argument, it would undercut a provision that Congress reauthorized just six years ago and then-President George W. Bush signed off on. In other words, it would mean that states used the federal courts to sweep away the work of the nation's elected lawmakers.The balance of governmental power over voting rights is only one reason why the case of Shelby County v. Holder is significant.Another is the case's potential to shift the balance of political power. The Voting Rights Act prohibits voting changes that reduce the electoral strength of racial, ethnic and language minorities. But altering the law could affect the ability of political parties to manipulate voting boundaries to their advantage.When voting is racially polarized, political line-drawing can have discriminatory results even when the stated motive is merely to disarm the opposing party.Texas cares quite keenly about the Shelby County case because it aims at Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. That provision requires only a small number of states and counties to seek approval of the U.S. Justice Department or a federal court before putting any voting changes into effect.Texas is subject to Section 5 preclearance, along with Alabama, Alaska, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Virginia, 40 counties in North Carolina and a few counties in Arizona, Hawaii and Idaho. Inclusion is based on past racial discrimination in voting practices.Texas' Republican leaders insist that requiring preclearance no longer is justified. Voting rights advocates and some Democratic elected officials say Republican lawmakers have made the continuing need for oversight obvious.This year, either DOJ or a federal court has rejected three redistricting maps that Texas' GOP-dominated Legislature developed after the 2010 census, as well as the voter ID law approved during the 2011 session and signed by Gov. Rick Perry.Through long-running, expensive litigation, Texas officials so far have been unable to prove their contentions that minority voters aren't harmed by the redrawn voting boundaries or the mandate to produce a specific kind of photo ID to vote.In October, Abbott asked a federal court in Washington, D.C., to find Section 5 unconstitutional in Texas' voter ID case on the grounds that it "exceeds Congress's power" to enforce the 15th Amendment, which bars abridging voting rights based on race.Texas says Congress lacked evidence to support the reauthorization and that Section 5 gives the Justice Department "limitless discretion" to block state laws.State officials maintain that the voter ID law wasn't meant to be racially discriminatory even though a federal court ruled in August it has that result.The Justice Department counters that Congress relied on a 15,000-page record and concluded that preclearance is a "congruent and proportional remedy."Voting rights advocates and individuals who object to the voter ID law argue that Texas lawmakers knew the law would harm the rights of Latino and African-American citizens but passed it anyway "in a legislative process marked with anti-immigrant rhetoric, false rationalizations and deviations from established legislative procedures."Shelby County lost before the U.S. Court of Appeals in D.C. The Supreme Court justices are scheduled to consider whether to take up that case at their private conference today and could announce Monday whether they'll hear arguments on Section 5.The political storm isn't likely to end until well after the Nov. 6 elections.