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Five reasons the Missouri Republican Party should rethink condemning voter registration efforts in Ferguson

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Here's a story that will make you shake your head.

Liberal organizers set up a voter registration booth at the site of Michael Brown's death in Ferguson, Mo.

The Missouri Republican Party's executive director proceeded to tell Breitbart News' Charlie Spiering that the action was "not only disgusting but completely inappropriate.”

There are a few reasons the Missouri GOP should reconsider that response:

1) 67 percent of Ferguson residents are black.

2) Ferguson's police force has 53 officers. Only three of them are black.

3) Ferguson has six city council members. Only one of them is black.

4) Ferguson's school board has seven members. Only one of them is black.

5) The most productive way to channel anger and frustration in the aftermath of Michael Brown's death is to encourage people to vote.

Ferguson's residents are angered by a police force that doesn't resemble the demographics of their population and that they see as targeting their youth. They live in a town where woeful turnout in municipal elections means Ferguson's white minority dominates the positions of power. At this most local level of government, conservatives ought to be encouraging people to vote.

And let's zoom out a bit: Ferguson isn't a metropolis. It's a town of about 21,000 people. If the residents of a municipality this small feel their government does not represent them, they should feel empowered to send new people to those offices.

What we have right now is a nightly standoff between heavily armed police officers and exceptionally angry protestors. One way to defuse this situation is through the political process instead of violence.

Voting is that process.

I think I understand the sentiment the Missouri Republican Party wants to express by condemning the effort. This is a tragedy. It's a time to mourn. We should come together. There will be people who seek to exploit this sad event by fanning the flames of hatred and discontent to advance their own agendas.

But I also think Missouri Republicans are totally missing the point. What this condemnation resembles instead is the Missouri Republican Party condemning an effort to register black voters in the aftermath of a white police officer shooting a black teenager. That might not be fair, but it's what it looks like.

So Missouri Republicans should reconsider this approach. They should even send a few staffers to engage with potential voters in Ferguson. The black voter turnout in Ferguson for the 2012 presidential election was 54 percent. That number plummeted to 6 percent in the 2013 municipal elections.

That number can be attributed to a variety of things, be it voters feeling like they're being ignored, or elections being held in odd-numbered years, or the nonpartisan ballots for city council (which the Washington Post points out reduces voter knowledge and turnout rates).

But what it ultimately communicates is that votes are up for grabs. There is space for the Republican Party to reach out to people in Ferguson and say "we want your vote. What must we do to earn that vote?"

A party that condemns efforts to attract new members, particularly considering the way this example looks, is one that can't expect to be competitive.

Don't give up on Ferguson, Republicans.

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