Pro-Palestinian protest campaign beats out goal in Wisconsin Democratic primary with more than 47,000 ‘uninstructed’ votes


(JTA) – The campaign to protest President Joe Biden’s support for Israel at the ballot box declared victory in Wisconsin following the Democratic primary, as more than 47,000 people voted “uninstructed” rather than supporting the party’s presumptive nominee.

The “uninstructed” vote — akin to “uncommitted” protest votes in other states — amounted to 8.4% of primary voters, according to the Associated Press. The state’s activist group, called Listen to Wisconsin, had aimed for more than 20,000 uninstructed ballots — equivalent to Biden’s margin of victory over President Donald Trump in 2020.

When the uninstructed tally passed that number on Tuesday night, Listen to Wisconsin posted online, “WE DID IT, WISCONSIN!” The state is projected to again be a battleground in November.

“We had three weeks to pull off a presidential primary election,” the group posted on X, formerly Twitter, early Wednesday morning. “Lots of tiring days and sleepless nights. But we would do it over again in a heartbeat. Thank you Wisconsin for making your voices heard today.”

The vote — following large tallies of uncommitted ballots in Michigan, North Carolina and other swing states — represents a continued sign of progressive anger at the White House’s Israel policies ahead of the presidential election.

Biden, who has won enough delegates for the nomination and is effectively running unopposed, still won an overwhelming victory in Wisconsin, as he did in the three other states that held primary votes on Tuesday – New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Trump has also sewn up the Republican nomination and cruised to victory in the primaries.

Listen to Wisconsin and other such movements aim to show Biden that anger over his support for Israel could cost him crucial states in November if he loses progressive voters. The group’s demands include a permanent ceasefire in Gaza; increased humanitarian aid to the enclave; reinstating support for UNRWA, the United Nations agency for the Palestinians; and ending U.S. military aid to Israel.

Wisconsin’s protest vote campaign drew lower numbers than in February’s primary vote in neighboring Michigan, which has a large Arab population of around 300,000. Many of the most prominent Arab-American Michiganders have been vocally critical of Biden’s stance on the Israel-Hamas war.

In Michigan, more than 100,000 Democratic voters cast uncommitted ballots, representing 10% of voters and easily beating out organizers’ goal of 10,000 votes – the margin of Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Biden won the state over Trump in 2020 by about 150,000 votes.

U.S. President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address during a joint meeting of Congress in the House chamber at the U.S. Capitol, March 07, 2024. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

The Biden administration was firmly supportive of Israel’s counter-offensive in Gaza after Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack killed 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians, and took some 250 hostages. Since then, Israeli forces have killed more than 32,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry. The death toll does not distinguish between civilians and combatants, though Israel has said more than a third of the fatalities are Hamas fighters. More than 250 Israeli soldiers have been killed in the campaign.

The White House has been increasingly critical of Israel’s campaign as it nears the six-month mark, and of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. On Tuesday, National Security Council Spokesperson John Kirby said the White House was “outraged” by Israeli airstrikes that killed seven humanitarian workers. Israel apologized for unintentionally killing the staffers from the World Central Kitchen aid group and vowed to investigate.

Protest votes also made a mark in the other states that held primaries on Tuesday, though Biden is expected to handily win all three in November.

In Connecticut, more than 7,400 Democratic voters, or 11.5% of the total, voted uncommitted. And nearly 15% of Rhode Island Democratic voters, more than 3,700 people, submitted uncommitted votes.

In New York, there is no option for voting uncommitted, but a campaign urged voters to submit blank ballots in protest of the war. The state’s election board has not yet reported how many blank ballots were submitted. A number of pro-Palestinian activist groups, including the anti-Zionist Jewish Voice for Peace, the left-wing Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, the progressive Working Families Party and New York City’s chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, all backed the campaign.

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