The new lawsuit filed in November by the NYCLU and Latham & Watkins LLC seeks to replace the at-large school board voting process with a ward system, allowing for better representation of the different populations in the district. They are requesting that the judge enjoin the May 2018 school elections until she has ruled on the lawsuit. Oscar Cohen, a long time resident, educator and activist in East Ramapo, stated the following:
As you are aware, the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) with Latham & Watkins LLP has filed a law suit in federal court challenging the at-large method of electing members of the East Ramapo Central School District Board of Education. The suit claims the at-large system unlawfully denies black and Latino citizens in the District an equal opportunity to elect candidates of their choice.
Under this system, board members are elected by all the voters of the school district rather than voters from individual geographic areas. This allows the majority community—which is white, lives close together, and tends to vote as a political bloc favoring private school education—to control eight of the board’s nine seats. Communities of color, who tend to vote as a bloc for candidates favoring investment in public schools, have not seen their candidates of choice win a contested seat since 2007.
Judge Cathy Seibel of the Southern District of New York is presiding. NYCLU-Latham has requested a preliminary injunction to postpone the scheduled May 2018 board election until after the Court rules on the law suit. The District is opposing the preliminary injunction motion. The Court has scheduled the preliminary injunction hearing (which is similar to a trial) to begin on April 12th. Thus, we expect to know if the Judge intends to halt the election and implement a new voting system in the District before the May 15th elections take place.