There is no question voting rights are under attack across the country. Last year the conservative majority on the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and conservative lawmakers in some southern states didn’t miss a beat before passing laws making it much more difficult for minorities, younger voters and the elderly – all constituencies which typically vote Democratic – to pull the lever for their candidates. This week we saw the Supreme Court deal another blow to minority voters in Ohio, limiting early voting, an accommodation used widely by African American voters, again a solidly Democratic bloc. Meanwhile, opponents of Wisconsin's voter ID law are asking the Supreme Court to keep officials from enforcing it in the November election and the Arkansas Supreme Court will take up a voter ID lawsuit. But there is one place where it appears voters are taking the power back. That place is Ferguson, Mo.
According to USA Today, more than 3,000 people have registered to vote in Ferguson since the death of Michael Brown — a surge in interest that may mean the city of 21,000 people is ready for a change. Three thousand new voters in less than two months. It’s a voting registration drive reminiscent of Freedom Summer.
Ferguson is a city of 21,000 people. Two-thirds are African American. But the mayor and five of six city council members are white. The makeup of the police department: depending on what you read, either three or four of a 53 member force are black. Not every white cop is racist – in fact it’s possible few or none are – but the makeup of Ferguson’s police force does not represent the community it serves.
Change is needed in Ferguson. And it’s needed in communities like it across the country. The good news this week, is that it looks like change is on the way. Two days after Michael Brown was shot, Anthony Bell, St. Louis 3rd Ward committeeman, began registering voters. According USA Today, the biggest issue on the Nov. 4 ballot will be the race for county executive of St. Louis County between Republican State Rep. Rick Stream and County Councilman Steve Stenger, a Democrat. Fast forward to April, and three Ferguson city council seats will be up for grabs.