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Ferguson Voters Elect 2 Black Members To City Council

Rich Baranowski (left) and Tracy Hardy vote Tuesday in the Ferguson, Mo., municipal election. Three of the city's six seats will now be filled by black council members.

In a first, the City Council in Ferguson, Mo., is now half white and half black, after voters added two more African-Americans to the six-member group. Voter turnout was reported at 30 percent in the majority-black community.

The voter turnout "surpasses recent municipal elections in Ferguson — and nearly doubles the roughly 16 percent turnout in the rest of St. Louis County," St. Louis Public Radio reports.

"The high turnout came despite brutal weather," The Associated Press says. "Strong storms, including lightning and heavy rain, tore through the region for several hours before noon."

When a Ferguson police officer shot and killed unarmed Michael Brown, 18, last August, the small number of blacks in Ferguson's police department, City Council and other prominent roles was widely seen as contributing to the frustration and unrest that followed.

In Tuesday's election, African-American candidates Ella Jones and Wesley Bell won, along with white candidate Brian Fletcher.

"We knocked on doors. We were all about community outreach and staying positive," Bell tells St. Louis Public Radio. "And it brought out the highest turnout in the history of Ward 3. That's what I'm most proud about — that we reached out to citizens. Residents who have not felt a part of the process."

Jones tells the station: "For some people, it means hope. Some people, it means a new face for Ferguson. And for some people, it means that it's time for us to get together and do the work we need to do to build our city."

Fletcher, a former mayor of Ferguson, tells St. Louis Public Radio: "I think we made tremendous progress tonight. I mean, we've moved like a century's worth of past history in one night."

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports:

"The high turnout did not favor two candidates supported by protesters: Bob Hudgins and Lee Smith.

"Hudgins, a self-identified protester and independent journalist, who ran in the 2nd Ward, lost to former Mayor Brian Fletcher, founder of the 'I love Ferguson' campaign. Smith, a retiree, ran against Wesley Bell in the 3rd Ward. Bell is a municipal court judge in Velda City."

Like Ferguson, Velda City reportedly relies on court fees to supply a large portion of its budget.

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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