- Associated Press - Monday, June 12, 2017

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - North Carolina Democrats and allies continued to press Republican leaders Monday to redraw legislative maps quickly after the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed last week that nearly 30 districts are illegally racially gerrymandered.

Last Monday, the nation’s highest court upheld the lower court decision of three federal judges who originally tossed out the districts in August. The lower court can’t act until formally getting the case back from the Supreme Court, but the judges wrote Friday that they would “act promptly” on when new maps should be drawn and whether a special election is necessary this fall.

Still, Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper said Monday that new “maps should be drawn this month and an election held before next year’s legislative session. If the legislature doesn’t do its job soon, the courts should.”

“North Carolina shouldn’t hold another session or have another budget voted on by an unconstitutional legislature,” Cooper added in a release. The next session, once the current one ends, is expected to begin in spring 2018.

Cooper issued a proclamation last week to get legislators to hold a map-drawing session simultaneously with the current legislative work session. But Republicans refused to do so, saying such a meeting was unconstitutional and that drawing maps was premature.

“The courts have yet to give the legislature direction on this matter, and we will be prepared to undertake a thorough redistricting process with ample notice and opportunities for public input when they do,” Republican Sen. Ralph Hise of Mitchell County said last week.

GOP lawmakers prefer holding the first elections with any altered maps during the next regular cycle ending in November 2018. Republicans could lose their veto-proof majorities - giving additional power to Cooper - if Democrats win a handful of additional seats in either the House or Senate.

Those who sued over the districts drawn in 2011 complained that Republican mapmakers packed too many black voters into some districts and made surrounding districts whiter and thus more likely to elect Republicans. The three judges declared that GOP legislators had failed to justify creating so many districts with black voting-age populations above 50 percent.

Later Monday, more than 50 demonstrators gathered at the Legislative Building to complain that the General Assembly has done nothing to address the unconstitutional districts. The protesters, organized by several groups opposed to President Donald Trump and by election reform groups, held placards as they marched to House Speaker Tim Moore’s office and outside the Senate gallery.

“Voters deserve fair maps and voters deserve them now,” said protester Heather Hazelwood, a leader of Indivisibles NC & Together We Will North Carolina. “The NC GOP is really out of excuses.”

The U.S. Supreme Court told the lower court judges they should have done a better job evaluating legally whether holding a special session was warranted. In its written notice last Friday, the District Court in Greensboro signaled it would assess the election schedule again.

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Associated Press writer Christina Sandidge contributed to this report.

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