Increased Voter Turnout in Ferguson Leads to Historic Changes in City Council
Ferguson, Mo. -- Voters in the City of Ferguson, Missouri turned out in record numbers for city council elections Tuesday night. Nearly 30 percent of registered voters went to the polls, almost doubling the turnout of the last city election. The increase in turnout resulted in historic changes in the composition of the city council.
Before the elections, Ferguson, which is over two-thirds African-American, had only one black representative on the 6-person city council. After the ballots were counted Tuesday, two black candidates, Ella Jones and Wesley Bell, were elected to two seats formerly held by white members, marking the first time in Ferguson’s history that black members represent half of the city council.
The election comes one month after the Justice Department released a report detailing a broad pattern of racist police activity in the city’s police department, a claim many Ferguson citizens made in the wake of last year's police shooting of Michael Brown.
To many in the city and in the national media, the Ferguson city elections represented a test as to whether the traumatic events of 2014 could turn voter apathy and drive citizens to the polls. The results of Tuesday's election answered that test with a resounding call for change in the way the city leadership was comprised.
The new council will now have to navigate how to address the issues raised in the Justice Department's report -- a report that prompted the resignation of the police chief, the city manager, and a municipal judge whose fines on predominantly poor citizens acted as a source of revenue for the city.
Council member-elects Bell and Jones will join council member-elect Fletcher on a panel that is scheduled to select the next city attorney, who will be charged with running a city that has been heavily dependent on court fines levied disproportionately against poor, black residents.
Despite the storm of the past year’s events and heavy rain on election day, many Ferguson residents were proud of the turnout and are happy to start the rebuilding process.
“When you have a community engaged, the sky's the limit,” council member-elect Wesley told Yahoo News. “This community came out in record numbers to make sure our voices were heard.”