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Voters gather at Legislature to demand fair maps in wake of U.S. Supreme Court’s gerrymandering ruling

North Carolina voters march Tuesday into the Legislature to tell lawmakers they want fair maps that aren’t racially gerrymandered. (Photo by Melissa Boughton)

North Carolina voters gathered Monday afternoon in front of the Legislature downtown to demand that lawmakers begin drawing fair maps immediately to correct the racially gerrymandered ones.

Just a week before the gathering, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed that 28 of North Carolina’s House and Senate Districts were unconstitutionally racially gerrymandered.

The order that the Supreme Court upheld directs the state to draw new maps, but Republican legislative leaders have said over the last week that they won’t redraw the maps until a court formally orders them to. There is currently some back and forth in the courts about jurisdiction but the federal district court the case will ultimately go back to has told the parties it intends to act promptly.

“Folks, at this point, the verdict is in,” said Heather Hazelwood of Indivisibles NC and Together We Will North Carolina. “So why are we here today? Because we demand to know when this travesty of democracy will be corrected. We demand to know when this legislature will redraw fair maps and new maps. When do voters finally get fair representation and a fair election?”

She led the rally Monday and introduced several speakers, including a couple voters, Ames Simmons of Equality NC and Gerrick Brenner of Progress NC.

Jasmine Johnson of Raleigh spoke Tuesday at a rally outside the Legislature about voting in a racially gerrymandered district. (Photo by Melissa Boughton)

Jasmine Johnson of Raleigh spoke about lawmakers’ efforts to make it harder to vote in North Carolina.

“As an African-American voter who has been targeted by unconstitutional racial gerrymandering conspiracy, I have a suggestion for the federal judges who will decide [what happens]: how about not one more day, not one more law and not one more state budget by a state legislature that has targeted African Americans and tried to silence us,” she said. “We need fair maps now so all of our votes and voices matter.”

Shaun McMillan, a U.S. Army veteran and high school history teacher from Cumberland County, lives in a gerrymandered Senate district and directed his message to the lawmakers responsible for the maps.

“We know you’re listening. I’d imagine right now, you’re peeking out of your blinds wondering when we’re going away, catching us on a live stream and asking yourself when we’ll get tired of demanding that you represent us fairly,” he said. “Well, you can just go ahead and bury the fantasy that you may be clinging to, that this mess of a district voting map that you’ve passed off as legal will pass as acceptable any longer. The courts have spoken; the Governor has spoken; the people are speaking.”

Rep. Graig Meyer (D-Durham, Orange) listened and interacted with voters at the rally.

After the speakers, the group gathered outside the Legislature took their signs and marched inside. They went to House Speaker Tim Moore’s office to demand new maps and to drop off a court order from last week.

A sergeant-at-arms was waiting outside Moore’s office and greeted the group. When they asked for a legislator, he said they were all busy with the budget process. Each of the members then proceeded to hand him the copy of the court order, and some told them why they were there and why there needed to be new maps drawn immediately.

Emily Burkhead holds her daughter’s hand as she gives the sergeant-at-arms a court order from last week. (Photo by Melissa Boughton)

Emily Burkhead of Cary used the opportunity to teach her two daughters, ages 3 and 5, about fairness. She said the preschoolers were currently learning how to be respectful of differences, how to share and how to be fair.

The group ended by heading up to see the House and Senate in action from the gallery of the building.

Just before the group gathered, Gov. Roy Cooper also called for special elections this year.

“North Carolina shouldn’t hold another session or have another budget voted on by an unconstitutional legislature,” he said. “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.”

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to hear from the state by 3 p.m. today about issuing a formal mandate to officially transfer jurisdiction to the federal district court.

The North Carolina NAACP is also hosting a press conference at the Legislature today to call on lawmakers to “cease and desist all legislative business until new constitutional districts are approved by the U.S. Courts.”

The event will be held at 2 p.m. right outside the Legislature on Jones Street in Raleigh.

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