Letter: Ramapo ward system ensures protection for all

September 28, 2014

A ward system for Ramapo would ensure minority representation, and goes to the heart of the Voting Rights Act's protections, Spring Valley Trustee Emilia White says. The writer advocates for "yes" votes on expanding Ramapo board, instituting wards.

Ramapo Councilwoman Brendel Charles reports that she has written to the Department of Justice with concerns that a ward system could "potentially undermine minority representation." This is pure hypocrisy.

Any concerns that a ward plan would violate the Voting Rights Act are misplaced. The Voting Rights Act was designed to prevent "communities of interest" from being dominated by larger or more organized voting groups. That is exactly what has been happening in Ramapo.

I was Ms. Charles' opponent for Ramapo Town Council in the 2011 Democratic Primary. She did not win in election districts where people of color live. In many of those districts, I beat her by more than two to one, even in her own home district. It was in Kaser and New Square that voters favored Ms. Charles overwhelmingly; without these two villages, she would have lost townwide. Had the ward system been in place, the voices of voters of color would not have been overridden by the Hasidic villages.

These same voters have determined the winner of all five board seats in Ramapo and all nine in the East Ramapo schools. If Ms. Charles is really worried about minority voter's rights, she should write to the Justice Department about the lack of quality education in the East Ramapo School District.

Contrary to Ms. Charles' claims, the ward system will not favor Republicans. The referendum is about giving all people, especially minorities, a voice on the town board. It would not pit Haitians, Latinos and African-Americans against each other. These groups have formed an alliance around education; they are all aware of their common interest in the face of many of Ms. Charles' supporters who consider public education to be dangerous.

I believe our diverse communities can coexist in harmony if the needs of each are respected. I urge all voters in Ramapo to vote YES and YES! for the two proposals on Tuesday.

Emilia White
Spring Valley
The writer is a Spring Valley Village trustee.