COURT

Voting boundaries for two Killeen-area Texas House districts will stay the same after the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday threw out a federal judge panel's ruling that lawmakers intentionally discriminated against minority voters during redistricting in 2013.

Two of the districts under the high court's scrutiny were House District 54, held by Rep. Scott Cosper, R-Killeen, and House District 55, held by Rep. Hugh Shine, R-Temple.

Cosper was defeated by Dr. Brad Buckley, a Salado veterinarian who practices in Killeen, in the May 22 runoff for the District 54 nomination. Buckley will face Democrat Kathy Richerson of Bell County on Nov. 6.

In a 5-4 vote, the high court threw out a lower court ruling that had found that lawmakers intentionally undercut the voting power of Hispanic and black voters, oftentimes to keep white incumbents in office. The Supreme Court found that the evidence was "plainly insufficient" to prove that the 2013 Legislature acted in "bad faith."

The Supreme Court also ruled that all but one of the 11 districts that had been flagged as problematic could remain intact. The one exception was Fort Worth-based House District 90, which is occupied by Democratic Rep. Ramon Romero and was deemed an impermissible racial gerrymander because lawmakers illegally used race as the predominant factor in deciding its boundaries.

The Supreme Court’s ruling, which keeps all but one of the state's districts in place through the end of the decade, is a major blow to the maps’ challengers — civil rights groups, voters of color and Democratic lawmakers — who since 2011 have tried to convince the courts that lawmakers intentionally undercut the voting power of Hispanic and black voters, oftentimes to keep white incumbents in office.

The lower court’s finding of intentional discrimination was key to challengers’ efforts to persuade the courts to again require the state to get the federal government’s permission to change its election laws — a safeguard for voters of color that Texas was required to comply with until 2013, when the Supreme Court wiped the list clean.

The Texas Tribune contributed to this report.

kyleb@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7567

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