Ferguson Elects 2 Black Candidates To City Council In Historic First Vote Since Michael Brown's Death

FERGUSON, MO - NOVEMBER 04: Residents cast their votes at a polling place on November 4, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri. In last Aprils election only 1,484 of Ferguson's 12,096 registered voters cast ballots. Community leaders are hoping for a much higher turnout for this election. Following riots sparked by the August 9 shooting death of Michael Brown by Darren Wilson, a Ferguson police officer, residents of this majority black community on the outskirts of St. Louis have been forced to re-examine race relations in the region and take a more active role in the region's politics. Two-thirds of Fergusons population is African American yet five of its six city council members are white, as is its mayor, six of seven school board members and 50 of its 53 police officers. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
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On Tuesday, the results came in, and Ferguson elected two black candidates to City Council. The wins are significant for the Missouri town since black members now hold half of its six council seats for the first time in history. In the first vote since last year's shooting death of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, black candidate Wesley Bell was elected in Ward 3 (where Brown was shot), while Ella Jones was elected in Ward 1 as the first black woman to sit on the Council. The elections of Bell and Jones signify a major shift for Ferguson, a town still reeling from months-long protests against racial bias and police brutality.

The disproportionately white representation in Ferguson's government caused activists to vocally encourage black community members to turn out to the polls and vote. USA Today reports two-thirds of Ferguson's 21,000 residents are black. Nearly 30 percent of eligible voters cast 3,700 ballots, more than double the number of people that turned out for city's mayoral elections last April. 

Sitting council member Dwayne James, who is black, was not up for re-election. The trio of seats held by Bell, Jones, and James indicate the city may soon be free of the racial divides that have long plagued its streets. The new City Council will hire Ferguson's next city manager, who will then choose a new police chief as well as manage the city budget that was found to be overly reliant on fines from poor and black drivers, the Los Angeles Times reports. In its investigation into Brown's death, the U.S. Justice Department last month determined there was a pattern of bias in Ferguson police and throughout its judicial system when engaging with black residents. 

In Ward 2, voters elected former mayor Brian Fletcher, who is white. Fletcher beat out Bob Hudgins, a white candidate who participated in the city's police protests and had the support of prominent black activists. Mayor James Knowles, who is also white and was not up for re-election, sits on the City Council as well. 

Image: Getty Images (1)

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