A three-judge panel has refused a request by North Carolina Republican lawmakers to block the use of new legislative district maps the judges approved for this year's elections.
Even with Friday's unanimous denial by the federal judges, GOP lawmakers have a similar pending request at the U.S. Supreme Court.
The lower-court judges agreed this month that House and Senate maps approved by the General Assembly last August still contain lingering racial bias from boundaries approved in 2011. The judges also decided lawmakers violated the state constitution by redrawing several when they didn't have to.
The judges rejected arguments that they had created a new racial gerrymandering test and wrote boundary changes are limited and can be implemented with minimal harm to the state or legislators.
Candidate filing begins Feb. 12.