BY MICHAEL RICONDA
NEW CITY – Advocates of a ward voting system in the Town of Ramapo managed to make their way past legal blocks set forward by opponents, earning a state Supreme Court examination of petitions submitted almost two years ago. A ward system would divide the town into six sections, with each having its own councilman. Currently the town has four councilman and a town supervisor, all of whom are voted on by the entire town.
On Monday, Supreme Court Justice Margaret Garvey began closed-door proceedings to determine whether Ramapo activists Mike Parietti and Robert Romanowski met residency requirements and gathered the minimum number of signatures. As Garvey had expressed an intention to examine petitions line-by-line, it could be weeks before a final judgment is reached.
Parietti and Romanowski introduced the petitions in 2012, calling for a referendum on a ward system which would divide the Town into multiple voting districts. The unstated goal of the ward system and the additional seats is to ameliorate the influence of the religious “bloc vote” on Ramapo elections. With wards represented by local officials, town-wide votes on council candidates would cease and residents of municipalities with little to no bloc vote sway might have more free reign over their own representation.
The petitions were initially brought before Ramapo Town Clerk Chris Sampson in 2012, who waited until shortly before Hurricane Sandy to reject them on technical grounds. With an extremely short amount of time to work, Parietti and Romanowski failed to meet the three-day deadline for an Article 78 filing challenging the decision.
However, due to unforeseen circumstances, the Article 78 survived. After Sandy hit and a state of emergency was declared, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an order suspending legal filing deadlines retroactive to October 26, the Article 78 filing deadline for the petition.
Though Sampson attempted to resist the Article 78, a lawsuit by Parietti and Romanowski reached the Appellate Division. The court ruled in their favor, allowing the Article 78 to proceed in Garvey’s court without concern for the filing deadline.