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A panel of federal judges overseeing the long-running litigation over the state’s legislative and congressional districts has denied plaintiffs’ motions to put Texas back under a federal preclearance regime before making changes to districts or election laws. The Court determined that “the Court’s findings of intentional racial discrimination in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment with regard to the 2011 plans are sufficient to trigger bail-in,” but it decided “nothing further remains to be remedied,” despite having “grave concerns about the State’s past conduct.” It concluded, “it is time for this round of litigation to close.”

The Court cautioned that the state “must still comply” with the federal Voting Rights Act and the Fourteenth Amendment “even without being subject to preclearance.” The Court advised the state to “conduct its redistricting process openly, with the understanding that consideration of bail-in is always an option for whatever federal court or courts may be tasked with review of future legislative actions.”

The decision could mean Texas would be free to draw its legislative districts without seeking federal pre-approval for the first time in five decades. In 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a section of the Voting Rights Act was unconstitutional because it used an outdated formula, rendering the preclearance provisions largely inoperable without Congressional action (There has been none.) or a state or locality being “bailed in” to the preclearance regime. About 20 jurisdictions have been “bailed in” over the years.

“This court ruling is a win for our Constitution and the right of Texans to govern themselves,” said Atty. Gen. Ken Paxton in a statement. “We are thankful that today’s decision finally puts an end to this baseless challenge.”

In a statement, Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said he was “disappointed that further remedy has not been provided by the Court to right the wrongs that Texas Republicans have imposed on the people of our great state.”

HD33: Gov. Greg Abbott (R) endorsed Rep. Justin Holland (R-Heath) for re-election.

HD88: Rep. Ken King (R-Canadian) announced he would seek re-election to a fifth term.

HD89: Gov. Greg Abbott (R) endorsed Rep. Candy Noble (R-Lucas) for re-election.

Midland Co.: Tom Hain, the chief of police for the Univ. of Texas-Permian Basin, announced he would seek the Republican nomination for sheriff. Rory McKinney, the current chief deputy in the sheriff’s office, is also in the race. Midland Co. Constable David Criner (R) is also expected to run. Interim Sheriff Richard Gillette is not expected to seek a full term.

Weslaco: The city council ordered an August 27 runoff election to fill a vacant council seat. Adrian Farias (44%) faces Lupe Garcia (27%).

Fort Worth ISD: The school board voted to call a special election for November 5 to fill the unexpired term of former board member T.A. Sims, who resigned last week, ending his more than 35 years on the board.

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