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Voter registration jumps in Ferguson since shooting of black resident

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[October 03, 2014]  By Kevin Murphy
 KANSAS CITY Mo. (Reuters) - Voter registration in Ferguson, Missouri, has jumped nearly 30 percent since Aug. 9, when the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen by a white officer triggered calls for a more racially representative city government, an election official said on Thursday.

Nearly 3,300 Ferguson residents registered to vote between Aug. 9 and Sept. 30, in time for the Nov. 4 election, said Rita Days, director at elections at the St. Louis County Board of Elections.

That is about two-thirds of the total new voter registrations in the county of one million people during that period, she said. Ferguson has about 21,000 residents.

The shooting of Michael Brown, 18, by officer Darren Wilson on a Ferguson street triggered days of protests and calls for justice. It also drew attention to the racial makeup of Ferguson compared to its city government.

About two-thirds of Ferguson residents are black, but its mayor and five of six council members are white. At the time of the shooting, police came under criticism for having only three black officers on its 53-member force.

Records are not kept on the race of voters in Ferguson, but the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and other groups have made efforts to get more blacks to register. Three seats on the city council in Ferguson are up for election in April.

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John Gaskin III, spokesman for the NAACP of St. Louis County, said the boost in Ferguson voter registration can be a significant step toward bringing policy changes to that community and beyond. But registration is only helpful to a point, he said.

"They need to lift their voices and vote," Gaskin said.

(Reporting by Kevin Murphy in Kansas City; Editing by Mary Wisniewski and Sandra Maler)

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