How Does A Town With 67% Black Population Wind Up With An All White Police Force? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself every since the Ferguson riots. Ferguson has only three black police officers out of fifty-seven officers on the force. Only one of the five city council members is black and the mayor is white. This doesn’t happen just on it’s own so I’ve been wondering why.
It seems there is a reason beyond just apathetic black voters. The key is when their elections are held and in how the elections are run.
Ferguson holds municipal elections in April of odd-numbered years. In doing so, the town is hardly unique. Approximately three-fourths of American municipalities hold their elections in odd years, a Progressive-era reform intended to shield municipal elections from the partisan politics of national contests, but one that has been shown to have a dramatic effect on reducing turnout.
Ferguson also holds nonpartisan elections (where party labels do not appear on the ballot), another Progressive reform, and one that has been shown to reduce both what citizens know about candidates as well as their likelihood of voting. These consequences are worse for people with less education and less income.
So it is really apathetic or uneducated voters but it’s also manipulated voters. The cure for Ferguson’s woes is voter education and a strong campaign among the black community in Ferguson to turn out for local elections.