“A federal judge on Monday rejected East Ramapo’s attempt to hold school board elections as planned June 9, saying the district’s time would be better spent creating a system that’s fair to black and Latino voters.
U.S. District Court Judge Cathy Seibel turned back East Ramapo’s effort to stay her ruling from May 25, which gave the district 30 days to create a ward or neighborhood-based voting system with four districts in which minorities make up the majority of registered voters.
The district prefers to keep the current at-large voting setup, which gives district voters the chance to vote for each candidate for an open seat.
The Spring Valley chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People sued the district in 2017, saying the at-large system has led to a nine-member school board dominated by white, Orthodox Jewish men for more than a decade.
District lawyers could not immediately be reached for comment but have already told Seibel they intend to appeal her decision to the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
Seibel’s 11-page ruling casts doubt on the district’s claim that it would be too costly to call off next week’s elections now and hire a consultant to create a ward-based voting setup.
East Ramapo has already spent money printing some 60,000 mail-in ballots to comply with a state order prohibiting in-person voting during the pandemic.
“Given that the District has already expended prodigious amounts in litigating this case (which it has every right to do), it is curious that the District has raised a seemingly newfound desire to economize only at the remedy stage — which will entail a relatively small additional cost,” Seibel wrote.
The district expects to spend millions of dollars defending against the legal challenge from the NAACP, which is represented by lawyers from the New York Civil Liberties Union and Latham & Watkins, a private firm.
Between 2012 and 2018, the district has spent $16 million in legal fees, an investigation by The Journal News/lohud found.
Four of the nine seats on the nine-member East Ramapo Central School District board are up for election this year. No matter the outcome of the district’s appeal, voters will still have an opportunity to vote for or against the district’s $247 million budget adopted two weeks ago.”
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