Getting the Ferguson majority to show its clout at the polls

“A lot of people just didn’t realize that the people who impact their lives every day are directly elected,” said Shiron Hagens, 41, of St. Louis, who is not part of any formal group but has spent several days registering voters in Ferguson with her mother and has pledged to come back here each Saturday. “The prosecutor — he’s elected. People didn’t know that. The City Council — they’re elected. These are the sorts of people who make decisions about hiring police chiefs. People didn’t know.”

N.A.A.C.P. leaders are creating a door-to-door voter registration effort with a jarring reminder as its theme: “Mike Brown Can’t Vote, but I Can.” Senator Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, is working with others to hold a “candidate school” for people, including young black residents who say they want to serve on a city council or school board but need guidance on what a political campaign requires…

Ask people along the streets here why they choose not to vote and they answer, mostly, with shrugs. Voter turnout has been far higher in presidential elections, and some had not even realized there was a mayoral race last spring. “You don’t really see the candidates or even anything about them until a week or two before the election, and even then it’s not much,” said Alyce Herndon, 49, who has voted but, like many here, said she had not had cause to attend Council meetings.