There’s a lot of discussion of the election results in Ferguson, Missouri last night, and many are expressing disappointment that voter turnout was only around thirty percent. But we have to put things in perspective:

Voter turnout increased substantially from the previous election following a strong get-out-the-vote effort from labor unions and other national organizations. The town that drew only 12.3 percent of registered voters last April had 29.4 percent turnout Tuesday, according to the St. Louis County Board of Elections. That was about double the overall turnout in St. Louis County, where Ferguson is located.

When it comes to turning out the vote, you don’t expect miracles. Ferguson well more than doubled its turnout from a year ago despite “brutal storms” that included lightning and heavy rain. More significantly, it roughly doubled the turnout of St. Louis County as a whole, and it did this despite underperforming the country as a whole in the past.

If we’re judging the impact of a get out the vote effort, this was a big success. I’m not sure we can say the same about the voter registration drive, however.

A strong push was made after the shooting [of Michael Brown] to register more black voters last year, but just 562 new voters were added to the rolls. In recent weeks, the focus has been on getting those who are registered to vote.

There are a lot more voters to register in Ferguson, and there are still a lot of registered voters who did not turn out yesterday despite all the media attention and hype around the election. There’s plenty of room for improvement, but the city council now has two more black members and the community can see first hand that political engagement can make a difference.

The “community organizers” done good.

[Cross-posted at Progress Pond]

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Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at