Huge Increase In Voter Registrations In Ferguson Apparently Never Happened

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This post has been updated.

Last week, numerous news outlets, national and local, reported on a huge increase in registered voters in Ferguson, Mo., following the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown. But it apparently didn’t actually happen.

The St. Louis County elections board reported that 3,287 Ferguson residents had registered to vote. That is a huge surge for a city of 21,000, particularly as controversy swelled about the racial make-up of the city government after the shooting. Ferguson is two-thirds African-American, but its mayor and all but one member of the six-person city council are white.

But apparently that first report was in error. There was no voter registration spike. The county elections board reversed course on Tuesday and said that, actually, only 128 people had registered to vote since the shooting.

Yamiche Alcindor of USA Today reported on the gigantic revision, attributed to an unexplained “discrepancy.”

St. Louis County director of elections Rita Heard Days told TPM in a phone interview Tuesday that the county had mistakenly used a report that records all changes to a voter’s registration information — new address, change in marital status, etc. — to get the initial 3,287 number. Somebody within the office pointed out the issue after the huge spike was reported, and the board worked with the secretary of state’s office to get the actual 128 new registrants.

Days said she thought the original report of 3,000-plus new voters was “odd,” but that it was at least possible because a lot of people had asked for voter registration information since the Brown shooting.

“I thought, ‘Well, you know, it might be possible that you could get that,'” she said. “It looks a little funny, but if that’s what the report says, that’s what it is.”

Days added that she was “apologetic” about any inconvenience that the mistake might have caused.

The NAACP chapter in St. Louis County and the League of Women Voters, both of which helped register voters after the Brown shooting, were not immediately available for comment.

There had been a concerted effort to register voters amid the ongoing protests after Brown’s death, with national groups getting involved. It had even drawn backlash from GOP officials; the Missouri Republican executive director called the voter drive “disgusting.”

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