Ingham County’s 13% ‘uncommitted’ Democratic primary vote matches statewide trend

Islamic Society leader ‘ecstatic’ at results of local effort to send Biden a message over Gaza


WEDNESDAY, Feb. 28 — A push to get Michiganders to vote “uncommitted” in yesterday’s Democratic presidential primary saw more than 13% of Ingham County voters do so, matching the statewide total.

The movement was intended as a protest of President Joe Biden’s handling of the war in Gaza and represented the latest effort by activists to promote a ceasefire in the region and ask the administration to cut funding to the Israeli government.

Biden received 80.99% of Ingham County’s primary vote with 23,422 ballots cast, while "uncommitted" was second with 13.16%, or 3,805 votes, followed by Marianne Williamson at 3.22% and 931 votes, and U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips of Minnesota at 2.64% and 763 votes.

Statewide, 13.3% voted uncommitted —  101,100 voters versus 618,426, or 81.1%, for Biden, with 99% of the vote counted. 

On the Republican side in Ingham County, Donald Trump defeated runnerup Nikki Haley, 58.88% to 34.69%.

In 2020, the uncommitted Democratic primary vote in Ingham County was just 1.24%, with 729 of 58,551 voters choosing that option. In 2012, the last time a Democratic presidential incumbent ran for reelection, 7.81% of voters in Ingham County voted uncommitted versus 91.52% for Barack Obama.

“We are ecstatic. We couldn’t have asked for a better result,” said Thasin Sardar of the Islamic Society of Greater Lansing.

Sardar added that the initial goal was to get 10,000 uncommitted voters statewide. 

“It beat our expectations and sends a strong message to the Biden administration that we don’t approve of his handling of the crisis in Gaza,” he said. “This was a protest vote, and we feel we have conveyed the message loud and clear that Israel shouldn’t have our unqualified support and perpetrate violence in Gaza, which the International Court of Justice has described as plausible genocide.”

Sardar said the uncommitted campaign formed after politicians “turned a deadfall ear to us” over months of protests and activism.

“The 100,000 uncommitted votes are representative of a diverse and broad coalition of members that are opposed to Israel’s attacks in Gaza. It comprised Muslim Americans, Arab Americans, progressives, and people who are anti-war. We demonstrated at the ballot box that they don’t have our confidence in November,” he said.

Abbas Alawieh of the Listen to Michigan Campaign, one of the primary organizers of the protest vote, offered some choice words to the Biden Administration on what he viewed as a victory for this iteration of anti-war activism.

“We know that you move where the party moves. We’ve seen it on issue after issue. And yesterday showed that the center of the party has moved on Palestine,” Alaweih said. “I hope that President Biden does not continue to choose the path of maligning our anti-war movement, as his administration had in the past. I hope that he will not continue on his path of ignoring the lives of Palestinians.”

However, "not a lot directly" was the opinion of Michigan State University political science Professor Matt Grossman when asked what the “uncommitted” results mean for Biden’s chances of carrying Michigan in November.

“Most people who vote in the Democratic primary are likely to support the Democratic candidate,” Grossman said.

“The real threat is Arab American swing voters on this issue," he said. “Those votes are very much under threat.”

He said many Arab Americans have voted Democratic because of “ties since 9/11” but otherwise agree with Republicans on a variety of issues.

“If you remove the remaining reason to support Democrats, then that opens you toward Republicans,” Grossman said.

Brian P. Jackson, the chairman of Ingham County's Democratic Party, cited an "active Democrat socialist group" locally as a big reason for the protest vote. "But my hope and belief is that most of us will come together in November."

Jackson also said that some of those voters "did it for other reasons," including their desire to help forward Gov. Gretchen Whitmer on the national scene.

"What better way if you want the governor to run for the presidency than to vote uncommitted," he said.


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