April V. Taylor
After months of upheaval and outrage and for the first time since Michael Browns death, Black residents in Ferguson, Missouri have the opportunity to make historic changes to their city government on April 7th. Three seats on the six-member city council are up for election, but the big question no one is sure of is, will Black people turn out to vote.
In a modern day system of apartheid, Ferguson’s more than 60 percent Black population has been governed by a city government that is dominated by White people. Four of the eight candidates running in the upcoming election are Black, making this election “the most diverse campaign…in Ferguson’s 120-year history,” according to the Huffington Post.
Months of voter registration drives have added a total of 526 names to Ferguson’s voting rolls, a 4.6 percent increase. Historically, less than one-tenth of eligible voters vote in local races, a fare cry from the 75 percent turnout during presidential elections.
Candidate Adrienne Hawkins, who is running for Ward 1, echoes the concern many have about Black voter turnout, telling the Huffington Post, “One of my fears is that the people in the community won’t come out and vote. I think we need to have an African-American representative. The city council needs to be more reflective of the demographics of the community.”
Lee Smith, running the Ward 3, says he wishes young people would have stepped up to run for city council. Many young people say that they are disillusioned with government, and some feel that simply electing a Black representative does not guarantee improvement.
The eyes of of the nation will be on Ferguson April 7th, as many hold their breath wondering if demonstrators will exercise their right to vote with the hope that participating in the election process can effect real change in their community. As of now, no one can be sure what percentage of Ferguson’s residents will show up to vote; the only guarantee is that either way, these elections will be historic.