Protest Vote Gets Traction in Michigan, Spelling Trouble for Biden

President Biden Welcomes Governors To The White House During The National Governors Association Winter Meeting
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February 28, 2024

Over 100,000 Michigan Democrats voted "uncommitted" in the presidential primary on Tuesday, after anti-Israel activists organized a protest vote to pressure President Joe Biden into calling for an Israeli ceasefire.

The vote is a troubling omen for the Biden campaign and a sign of the growing anti-Israel sentiment in the Democratic party.

The "Listen to Michigan" campaign, backed by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D., Mich.), encouraged anti-Israel voters to check off "uncommitted" on their ballots instead of voting for Biden in the Democratic primary. The campaign was led by Tlaib’s sister and included phone banks and other statewide organizing efforts.

While it’s unclear how many voters were voicing their opposition to Israel—and how many were simply "uncommitted" to Biden—pro-Gaza protest organizers will likely call the vote a victory. Biden received 81 percent of the vote, while "uncommitted" received 13 percent.

Anti-Israel activists hoped to use the vote to show their political power and push Biden into supporting an Israeli ceasefire. Michigan has a sizable Arab population and is seen as one of the only states where support for Gaza could impact the election.

Michigan is a key state for Biden to hold the presidency, and a major boycott by Arab-American voters during the general election could cost him the race.

In the end, the "uncommitted" campaign far exceeded the 10,000 votes that organizers had claimed was their goal—a number that political experts said would still have been underwhelming when compared with past Democratic primaries.

"Uncommitted" received roughly 19,000 votes in 2020; 22,000 in 2016; and 21,000 in 2012, according to the Michigan secretary of state’s office.

Michigan is home to over 300,000 Arab Americans, one of the highest populations outside of the Middle East, according to David Dulio, director of the Center for Civic Engagement at Oakland University.

"It’s big enough to cause a lot of trouble for the Biden campaign," Dulio told the Washington Free Beacon.

But Dulio said he believed the campaign needed to draw support from at least 10 or 15 percent of the electorate in order to claim success—a benchmark that it did reach.

The last significant campaign to organize "uncommitted" voters in Michigan’s Democratic primary took place in 2008. Over 230,000 Democratic voters—around 40 percent of the electorate—checked the "uncommitted" box to show their support for then-presidential candidate Barack Obama, who hadn’t made it onto the state’s ballot.

Polls show Democrats have been increasingly turning against Israel. Democrats for the first time said they were more likely to favor Palestinians over Israelis in the Middle East conflict, according to a Gallup poll last spring.

White House officials met with pro-Hamas activists in Dearborn, Mich., this month in an attempt to quell their concerns that Biden hasn’t shown enough support for Gaza. At least seven Biden officials sat down with Michigan-based Arab American News publisher Osama Siblani, who has praised Hamas and Hezbollah as "freedom fighters," the Free Beacon reported.