Wisconsin is latest US state to send ‘uncommitted’ message to Biden on Gaza

More than 47,800 people cast ‘uninstructed’ votes in state primary, in latest stop of national protest movement.

Residents leave a polling place after voting in the primary election in Wisconsin, the US [Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP]

Nearly 50,000 Wisconsin voters chose “uninstructed” – the state’s version of “uncommitted” – in Tuesday’s Democratic primary as part of a growing campaign in the United States where protesters are using the ballot to voice their displeasure with President Joe Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza.

State elections officials announced that the uninstructed option accounted for more than 47,800 votes cast, or nearly 8.3 percent of the total, surpassing the 20,682 votes by which Biden defeated former president Donald Trump in Wisconsin in 2020.

“We more than DOUBLED our goal!” Listen to Wisconsin, the group behind the effort, wrote on Facebook. “Our elections are so close, that showing we have the margin of victory to swing this election is exactly the leverage we need to push this administration to policy change on Gaza!”

Wisconsin was also the first state supported by the Uncommitted National Movement, an umbrella campaign launched by organisers in Michigan. More than 101,000 voters in that state cast “uncommitted” votes in the Democratic primary in February in support of the protest campaign, accounting for 13 percent of the overall vote.

A week later, 45,000 voters in Minnesota cast their vote for “uncommitted”, representing 19 percent of all ballots cast in that state’s Democratic primary.

Organisers of the Uncommitted National Movement, which launched after Minnesota’s primary, said they were focusing on Wisconsin in hopes of building a Midwest protest portfolio.

Michigan and Wisconsin are traditionally swing states in presidential elections and while Minnesota is a blue state, both Hillary Clinton’s victory in the 2016 presidential poll and Biden’s in 2020 were by small margins. Combined, the three states account for 35 of the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win the White House – meaning that if recent voting patterns hold true, neither Trump nor Biden could withstand losing all three states in November’s election. 

“To the heartbeat of our movement, our volunteers: thank you for getting us to over 2 million voter contacts in WI, and helping us tell Biden to stop enabling Israel’s war crimes,” Listen to Michigan wrote on X after Wisconsin’s results came in.

“Onward and upward.”

All told, “uncommitted” (or its equivalent ballot option) votes were enough in Michigan, Minnesota, Washington and Hawaii to earn party delegates to be sent to the Democratic National Convention in August. Wisconsin’s results on Tuesday were not enough to win any delegates.

State Democratic parties will ultimately determine whether representatives of the protest movement will be chosen as the delegates for “uncommitted” voters, but organisers in Michigan express optimism that they will have representation at the event.

Both Biden and Trump have already secured enough delegates to be named their parties’ nominees in the general election.

Other efforts in states considered less likely to be competitive in November have also seen large turnouts, with 11 percent of Democratic primary voters casting uncommitted ballots in Connecticut and 14 percent doing the same in Rhode Island on Tuesday.

North Carolina, Massachusetts and Colorado also saw a significant proportion of voters cast “uncommitted” ballots in their primaries.

Abandon Biden, a separate group that is urging voters to ditch Biden in the general election, has paid particular attention to the upcoming April 23 primary in Pennsylvania, a swing state, although the Uncommitted National Movement has not yet thrown its weight behind that effort. Organisers have also launched campaigns in New Jersey and Maryland.

Not all US states have “uncommitted” as an option on their ballot. For instance, during New York’s Democratic primary on Tuesday, organisers urged voters to cast a blank ballot. It is expected to take weeks before state elections officials tally the total number of blank ballots cast.

For its part, Biden campaign officials have said the uncommitted movement is an expression of free speech.

But while the administration is increasingly critical of Israel’s failure to protect civilians in Gaza, critics note that the White House has continued to provide Israel with weapons and political support at the United Nations.

On Tuesday, US National Security Council Spokesman John Kirby said the administration has not found that Israel is using US weapons in violation of international law. He spoke just hours after an Israeli attack killed seven World Central Kitchen workers while they were travelling in a marked convoy near Deir el-Balah.

As of Wednesday, at least 32,975 Palestinians have been killed and 75,577 wounded in Israeli attacks on Gaza since October 7.

Posting on X, Abed Ayoub, the director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said the latest results from Wisconsin show “how serious of a problem Biden will have in the general election”.

“Michigan was going to be a problem,” he said. “The campaign needs WI to win in November.”

“There is no pathway to victory without WI and MI.”

Source: Al Jazeera