Breitbart catches on to the miniscule black turnout in Ferguson’s municipal elections.
According to an MSNBC report, local African-American leaders conceded that “blacks across the region simply haven’t participated in city elections.” They are right. According to a Washington Post analysis, an estimated 6% of blacks and 17% of whites turned out for the 2013 municipal elections in the township, which are held in spring in odd-numbered years. In contrast, during the 2012 presidential election, 54% of blacks and 55% of whites turned out in November.
In the 2011 mayoral election, Knowles was first elected with 46% of the vote. He got 695 votes, Pearce Neikirk received 459, and incumbent Steven Wegert received 338. The New York Times noted that Knowles even “noted his disappointment with the turnout – about 12 percent – in the most recent mayoral election during a City Council meeting in April.” Left-wing activists have asserted that since turnout is lower in odd-numbered years, Ferguson’s elections perpetuate the “white power structure.”
But according to the Washington Post, Ferguson is “hardly unique” in holding municipal elections in odd-numbered years; in fact, “approximately three-fourths of American municipalities hold their elections in odd years.” Ferguson’s municipal elections are also nonpartisan, “where party labels do not appear on the ballot,” and the Post claims this reduces “both what citizens know about candidates as well as their likelihood of voting.” Others would argue that it does not ensure that someone gets elected for life by having an “R” or a “D” next to their names on the ballot.
After remarking this week that “there is no racial divide” in Ferguson and the vast majority of Ferguson residents do not have racial animus, like the mainstream media would like Americans to believe, Knowles was ridiculed and slammed. Lizz Brown, a columnist for the St. Louis American, for instance, told Andrea Mitchell on Tuesday that Knowles was “disconnected to the reality of his community” and that black residents “are invisible to him.”
An MSNBC report, though, recently concluded after interviewing residents that “relations between ordinary blacks and whites in Ferguson… are said to be relatively good” while also noting that “like the police force, the city government has come under fire during the current crisis for what many see as a lack of sensitivity to minority concerns.”
Left-wing outlets like ThinkProgress have suggested that Ferguson amend its charter, which can be done “through a ballot initiative initiated by the city’s voters,” to “reschedule its municipal elections so that they are held in November of even-numbered years – the same time that federal elections are held.” Instead of rioting or complaining about the white power structure, ThinkProgress suggests that Ferguson residents “could start collecting signatures now,” which “would allow Ferguson’s residents to vote on the amendment next April, at a time when black turnout is likely to be higher than it usually is due to lingering concerns over the Brown shooting.”
First off, the Missouri Constitution requires municipalities to hold elections as March primaries and April generals in odd numbered years. So Think Regress is going to have to aim a little higher than the Ferguson city charter.
The other big issue the civil rights industry is going to grind over is the non-partisan nature of Ferguson’s municipal offices, and partisan or non-partisan is up to each municipality in the state. St. Louis City elections are partisan, though only one party matters there. A few years ago, the DOJ tried to (and maybe successfully) overturn Kinston, North Carolina’s shift from partisan to non-partisan elections, because the disparate impact of it, they argued, was to reduce black political power in the city. In partisan elections, white Democrats would vote for the black Democrat nominee out of partisan loyalty if the Democrat nominee is black, and blacks are so politically wedded to the blue team that they would get almost every black vote. Meanwhile, in non-partisan systems, there no party labels on the ballot, meaning blacks have less of an incentive to show up, and since there are only names on the ballot, it makes people actually think about and research their vote, and that in turn is another disincentive to black turnout. Too much like work. If Shaniqua Williams wins the Democrat nomination for city council over a white Democrat candidate, then most of the white people who voted for the white Democrat will vote for the Democrat nominee in the general election, that being the black Shaniqua Williams. But if it’s a big ballot with names only, the white Democrats won’t vote for a name like Shaniqua Williams, meaning Shaniqua Williams is far less likely to get on the city council in a non-partisan system than she is in a partisan system.
If somehow Ferguson’s city elections are changed from non-partisan to partisan and moved from March/April of odd numbered years to August/November of Presidential years, it’s all an attempt to get more blacks to vote in it, ergo more blacks to win city offices, ergo, to get Ferguson turned into East St. Louis even faster than it would otherwise.
And also, the fact that Missouri local municipal elections are on off cycles in odd years means that St. Louis has never had a black mayor. (Except it has had two black mayors.) And Kansas City has never had a black mayor, either. (It has had two black mayors, including its current mayor.)