Voters in Ferguson, Missouri, elected two African-Americans to the city council on Tuesday, during a local election that drew national interest in the wake of civil unrest sparked by the fatal shooting of a black and unarmed resident last year. For the first time in Ferguson’s 120-year history, the mostly white local government was poised to become more representative of the city’s 21,000 population, which is two-thirds black. While election results had not been certified Tuesday night, unofficial results indicated a nearly 30 percent turnout, more than doubling the portion of registered voters typically seen in April elections.
Representation in local government became a central issue this year after a federal investigation into the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown by white police officer Darren Wilson revealed a pattern of racial profiling and discrimination by the local police department against African-Americans. In the fallout of the U.S. Department of Justice’s investigation, the city’s manager and police chief resigned. It will fall to the new council administration to replace the interim manager and police chief.
Joining two white council members and one black official are Ella Jones, a black candidate who won in the city’s racially integrated ward one; Brian Fletcher, a former Ferguson mayor who is white and won in ward two; and Wesley Bell, who is black and won in the predominantly black third ward. As the incumbent members had chosen to step down at the end of their terms, there were eight candidates, four black and four white, vying three council seats open on the six-member panel.
Eric Fey, director of the St. Louis County Board of Election, said Tuesday evening that problems and complaints had not been reported from any of the city’s polling stations. Thunderstorms and hail had moved into the area Tuesday morning, causing a water leak at an elementary school polling station, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported.
"From what I've seen today, the community became empowered and came out -- that is a win," tweeted Patricia Bynes, a black Democratic operative who had been mobilizing voters and advising candidates.