Judge Rules in NAACP v. East Ramapo

Power of Ten Update
Special Edition: NAACP Prevails!

For years, voters in the East Ramapo have been complaining that their voices aren’t represented on the school board. It had gotten so bad that many people gave up voting entirely. They felt that their vote didn’t matter, and it was hard to argue that they were wrong.

When the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) took a look at the situation they immediately recognized the problem was voter dilution. This is when the votes of a minority group are mixed in with the majority’s votes so that the minority’s choice can never win. It is commonly found in areas where there is racial segregation. It is a tool to disenfranchise minority voters. It is also illegal.

The NYCLU wrote to the East Ramapo school board informing them of their observations and advising them how they can change their policies to conform with the law. The school board rejected their communication, and the ignored the plight of the minority voters. Anyone familiar with the East Ramapo school board will not be surprised by this action.

Fortunately, the Spring Valley Branch of the NAACP and several concerned citizens engaged the NYCLU to hold the school board accountable for the way it was discriminating against minority voters. A lawsuit was filed in the Federal courthouse in White Plains. The NYCLU also obtained pro Bono assistance from the law firm of Latham and Watkins, one of the largest firms in the world.

The school board, used to getting its way by raiding millions of dollars of education funds to pay for high priced lawyers, was finally fighting someone their own size. Thanks to the courage of concerned citizens, and the Spring Valley Branch of the NAACP, and the endless dogged persistence of the NYCLU lawyers, and the amazing generosity of Latham and Watkins and their stellar pro Bono legal team, JUSTICE has come today for voters in East Ramapo!

Judge Seibel’s ruling:

DECISION AND ORDER: 87. Balancing all of the relevant factors, I find that Plaintiffs have convincingly proven their case of vote dilution … The at-large system of electing the Board of Education of the East Ramapo Central School District affords black and Latino residents “less opportunity than other members of the electorate to participate in the political process and to elect representatives of their choice … in that it “thwarts a distinctive minority vote by submerging it in larger white voting population,” … the challenged practice “has operated to invidiously exclude blacks [and Latinos] from effective participation in political life in violation of Section 2 … Plaintiffs have proven that the at-large method of electing Board members in the District violates Section 2 of the VRA and that they are thus entitled to full relief. This Court enjoins the District from holding any further elections under its at-large system, including the elections currently scheduled for June 9, 2020. … The District shall propose a remedial plan that fully complies with the VRA within thirty days of the date of this Order. … Such a remedial plan shall divide the District into nine voting wards – one for each Board seat – and require that only those residents living in a voting ward may vote for that ward’s seat.

It is very important that we share this news with our neighbors and our children, especially important that children should know that they have a right to an educational experience that prepares them for college and for the job market; an experience that is rewarding and fulfilling; an experience where they are respected and where they are expected to excel; and that they have the right to live and learn in an environment free of racism, segregation or unequal treatment. They should know there are adults working to preserve these rights, and that all the rights and privileges we enjoy exist only because someone was willing to stand up for them.

There will certainly be more news on this topic in the coming days and weeks. Please share this news and invite your contacts to sign up to receive the Power of Ten Newsletter (form is on the website) so they can get the news directly.