Local election officials said last week that 3,287 people had registered to vote in Ferguson since the Aug. 9 police shooting of Michael Brown—a massive spike in a city with a population of 21,000.
But Tuesday, the board backtracked, saying that in fact only 128 people had registered.
"It looked a little suspicious, but I said, well, there’s been a lot of activity over there, maybe that is the case," Rita Heard Days, the elections director for St. Louis County, told msnbc. "It was a mistake that we made. I do apologize for that and I accept that responsibility."
The mistake was first reported in a series of tweets by Yamiche Alcindor of USA Today.
"A discrepancy was identified in the report that provided us with the numbers we released to you last week," the board said. "After two days of meetings with the Secretary of State’s Office, we were given the correct number."
Heard Days told msnbc that the 3,287 figure in fact showed how many already-registered voters had had a change made to their registration information—for instance, because they moved within the county. Board officials wrongly thought the number referred to newly registered voters.
Though Ferguson is two-thirds black, its city government is almost entirely white. That's in part because white voters have turned out for local elections at a far higher rate than black voters. So last week's report of a spike in voter registration—which came on the heels of an aggressive voter registration campaign by local black leaders—was hailed as a sign of change.