RAMAPO, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A vote next Tuesday in the diverse Rockland County town of Ramapo is turning into a debate over race, class and political power.

As WCBS 880’s Alex Silverman reported, a yes vote on both questions would add two members to the town’s board and create geographic wards that they would represent.

“I believe this is the old game for hundreds of years that has been used of divide and conquer,” board member Brendel Charles said.

Charles has written to the Justice Department, saying the minority vote would be diluted and is calling for a federal investigation.

“When you divide people, you can conquer them,” she said.

Local activist Mike Parietti worked to put the measure up for a vote.

“She seems to feel that because she’s African American, the interests of the African American community are automatically being represented. But our feeling is that’s not necessarily the case. You have to look at the power behind the throne of whoever it is that’s in office,” he said.

Parietti said the whole board now depends on the powerful Orthodox Jewish voting block and the real point is to spread the influence around more fairly.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office had no comment on whether it received Charles’ letter.

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