Protestors demonstrate outside the Ferguson Police Department in Ferguson, Missouri on March 4, 2015. The Federal Department of Justice decided today not to charge then Ferguson Police Officer, Darren Wilson, of any wrongdoing in the August shooting of Michael Brown Jr.Photo by Michael Thomas/Getty Images / Getty
The racial make up of Ferguson’s city council changed significantly on Tuesday, with two African Americans, Ella Jones and Wesley Bell, elected to office, confirms CNN.
Ferguson has about 21,000 residents, but has only had two black council members since its incorporation in 1894, including Councilman Dwayne James, who was not up for re-election.
The newly elected Bell, a professor and local magistrate, represents Ward 3, which covers the neighborhood where unarmed teen Mike Brown was killed by former Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson in August. In that race, Bell prevailed over another African American, Lee Smith, a pastor who has lived in Ferguson for 27 years.
Three of the six council members are now black, a signficant change since the death of Brown sparked unrest and national calls for changes in Ferguson.
The current mayor, James Ferguson, was not up for re-election.
#FergusonElections: City elects two African American Council Members today, splitting council, 50% black, 50% white.
Since the national spotlight has been on Ferguson, its residents have been criticized for having low turnout in municipal elections, drawing the criticism that its residents “deserved” the blatant racism and criminal justice disparity exposed by a Department of Justice investigation.
Charles Wade, founder of Operation Help Or Hush, an direct service organization that has been on the ground in Ferguson since August, said the election for him was about turnout and engagement.
“As much as who’s in the seats matter, it’s about the turnout,” says Wade, who says the residents of Ferguson got a bad rap for its poor turnout of about 9% in local elections. In the last two national elections — in which a black man was running for president — about 70% of registered voters came out to elect the first black President.
Wade says Op Help Or Hush targeted those “Obama voters” with grassroots efforts and supporting voter forums which were held leading up to the elections. “Our campaign focused on the Obama voters, those who admit, ‘I haven’t voted in a local election in years,’” Wade confirms.
Wade happily reported via Twitter that the turnout for the election was about 30%, which is more than double the rate it had been.