The Best News We Heard out of Ferguson Last Week Was Actually a Mistake

The local election board says it publicly declared the wrong number of new voter registrations—and it was wrong by a large margin.

(Photo: Michael B. Thomas/AFP/Getty Images)

Oct 8, 2014· 0 MIN READ
Samantha Cowan is an associate editor for culture.

It looked like a little bit of good news was coming out of Ferguson, Mo., last week when county officials released numbers indicating that 3,287 residents had registered to vote in the six weeks following the shooting death of unarmed teen Michael Brown. Officials from the St. Louis County Election Board issued a correction on Tuesday with a number far below its initial count—128.

When first asked to comment on registration, the elections board looked at a voter summary report, according to Riverfront Times. The larger figure is a real number, but rather than showing new post-Brown sign-ups, that’s how many residents had any sort of interaction with the voting registry in those six weeks. These exchanges include those that were previously registered making updates to personal information, such as to address or marital status.

“It was a mistake, pure and simple,” Rita Days, St. Louis County’s director of elections, told USA Today. The elections official worked with the secretary of state’s office for two days to comb through data and confirm the new number.

For a town with a population of 21,203, that first number represented a considerable chunk of the community. Activists cheered the engaged community, confident that a larger pool of voters could alter the political landscape of a city that is two-thirds black yet governed primarily by white leaders.

The discrepancy made news just a day before St. Louis’ Oct. 8 registration deadline to vote in the Nov. 4 midterm elections.