Ramapo Ballot Next Week May Weaken Orthodox Vote

RAMAPO -

A referendum to be voted on in Ramapo next Tuesday will decide issues that could weaken the power of the Orthodox community, local askanim and a national Jewish group warned.

The two questions on the ballot, which may see lower turnout due to it taking place on Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, place before the voter the question whether to expand the local Ramapo Board from four members to six, and if the board members should be elected via districts, rather than the current system of everyone voting for the entire body.

In a strongly worded statement Monday, Agudath Israel of America urged a “no” vote, saying supporters had an “unstated goal … to weaken the political influence of Orthodox Jews in the town.”

In the current voting system, residents vote on a slate of candidates for town board, whose members are comprised of the ones winning the most votes. In July, a judge agreed with Michael Parietti and Robert Romanowski and ordered the two issues put to a referendum.

The Ramapo town board is headed by Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence, and has two Orthodox members, Yitzchok Ullman and Daniel Friedman. The other two councilors are Brendel Logan and Patrick Withers.

Parietti and Romanowski, who are openly stating their reasons for the vote as a way of minimizing Orthodox representation, said that voting by the “ward” system would make lawmakers more answerable to their constituents.

But one activist opposed to changing the two planks, as well as the Agudah statement, called it a way to disenfranchise both the Jewish and African-American communities.

“The bulk of the Orthodox Jewish community would be concentrated in only two of six districts under the ward system,” the statement said. “This is classic minority vote dilution, only this time the victims are Orthodox Jews. A minority is being intentionally shoved into a small district to limit its ability to affect the outcome of elections in the community at large.”