Turnout Triples in|Peaceful Ferguson Election | Courthouse News Service
Thursday, November 30, 2023
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Turnout Triples in|Peaceful Ferguson Election

FERGUSON, Mo. (CN) - Black nominees won two of three Ferguson City Council seats up for grabs Tuesday - including the ward where the late Michael Brown lived - making the council more representative of the city's racial makeup.

The six-person council will have three black representatives, up from one, in a city whose 21,000 population is 67 percent black.

The 30.4 percent turnout was nearly three times higher than the turnout in the previous three April elections.

"I'm looking for someone that's dedicated to Ferguson, to change for the citizens," Leslie Thompson told Courthouse News as she left the polls. "Someone that can relate to the community."

Ella Jones, an African American, won the 1st Ward over another black and two white candidates.

Former Ferguson Mayor Brian Fletcher won the 2nd Ward over political activist Robert Hudgins, in a race that featured two white men.

Wesley Bell won the 3rd Ward over Lee Smith, who also is black.

Ferguson has been torn by racial problems a white police officer shot Michael Brown to death last August.

Voters went to the polls despite severe thunderstorms in the morning.

"Local elections are more important than national elections," Tommy Chatman-Bey told Courthouse News. "Local elections affect you directly, and you get no more direct than your mayors and your City Council."

Chatman-Bey spent time encouraging Ferguson residents to register and vote in the weeks before the election.

Many local leaders encouraged citizens, especially those in the African-American community, to make their voices heard at the polls.

"I'm hoping somebody can change and clean back up our city," Kendra Bass told Courthouse News.

While that sentiment was universally echoed by Ferguson voters, there seemed to be a difference of opinion as to how that change will look.

Local activists were outspoken in their support of Hudgins and Smith, both of whom lost.

Christopher Pittman worked the polls for Bell, a longtime friend, just a few blocks away from where Brown was gunned down.

"I've always believed in his wisdom," Pittman said of Bell. "I've always believed in his vision. One of the messages that we wanted to deliver is he wanted to be a new voice."

Chatman-Bey also stumped for Bell. He said the 3rd Ward, where Brown lived and was killed, is almost entirely African American and feels disenfranchised.

"We need a voice and there's no voice for us here in the 3rd Ward," Chatman-Bey said. "We don't even know who the council person is, him or her."

Pittman hopes Bell's election is the start of a new day not only for the residents of the 3rd Ward, but for the entire city.

"This basically shows the world what Ferguson is willing to do, to come out and do something more positive towards the uplifting of this community, and what we can do civically to do what we can to promote the community on a different plane than what's been promoted in the media and what people perceive about us," Pittman said.

In other Midwest election news Tuesday, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel won a second term, defeating Jesus "Chuy" Garcia in a runoff by 56 percent to 44 percent, with three-fourths of precincts reporting.

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