It’s perhaps the most-watched small town election happening in the country today. Ferguson, Mo., residents go to the polls to decide whether its city council will remain majority white in their majority black city. The lack of African-American political voices, from the mayor and police chief on down through the school board, had been widely cited as a critical factor in racial tensions exacerbated by the fatal police shooting of unarmed African-American teenager Michael Brown and the St. Louis grand jury’s non-indictment of Darren Wilson, the white officer who shot him.
Ferguson is about two-thirds black. White residents comprise less than a third of the city, but they have been 83 percent of city council, 94 percent of the police department and 86 percent of the school board. There has been low voter turnout (12 percent and under) in previous elections.
"Protesting is fine and all that and dandy, but without any political change, nothing is going to happen," says 33-year-old Crystall Stovall, who is black, to Tribune News Service. "You can protest till your lungs turn blue, but if the laws don’t change, it doesn’t matter."
The council hires those running and enforcing the city’s operations. Four of the eight candidates seeking three open seats are black. Incumbents decided not to run in an effort to heal. Today’s election is reportedly, the most diverse in Ferguson’s 120-year history.
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