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What was the Democratic uncommitted vote for Michigan in previous primaries?

Tuesday’s vote saw a win for incumbent president Joe Biden, however, much has been made about the number of protest votes of ‘uncommitted’.

Tuesday’s vote saw a win for incumbent president Joe Biden, however, much has been made about the number of protest votes of ‘uncommitted’.
Rebecca CookREUTERS

In the wake of Michigan’s recent primary elections, attention has turned to a significant protest vote within the Democratic Party, particularly concerning President Joe Biden’s policies regarding the Israel-Hamas conflict. While Biden secured an expected victory in the Democratic presidential primary, the sizeable uncommitted vote potentially highlights a simmering discontent within the party’s ranks. But it may not be quite as simple as that.

President Biden emerged comfortably victorious in Michigan’s Democratic primary on Tuesday. However, the noteworthy development came in the form of a protest vote by Democrats displeased with Biden’s stance on Israel’s offensive against Hamas in Gaza. Organizers of the protest had hoped for around 10,000 “uncommitted” votes as a symbol of dissent – despite recent history suggesting that a normal rate would be around double that – but the actual count exceeded expectations, with over 58,000 voters marking that choice, as reported by Edison Research.

Is Michigan’s ‘uncommitted’ vote unusual?

The surge in uncommitted votes, largely propelled by Michigan’s Arab American community and progressive Democrats, highlights a growing dissatisfaction with Biden’s foreign policy decisions. Many who had previously supported Biden in 2020 expressed frustration over his backing of Israel’s military actions in Gaza, where thousands of Palestinians have lost their lives.

The Listen to Michigan campaign, which spearheaded the call for uncommitted votes, hailed the outcome as a victory for their antiwar agenda. They affirmed their intention to amplify their message at the Democratic National Convention later in the year.

Despite Biden’s significant lead in the primary, the unprecedented number of uncommitted votes raises questions about his standing within his own party, particularly in a crucial swing state like Michigan. Analysts suggest that the issue of Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict could potentially impact his reelection prospects in the November presidential election. But others have explained it with a more wholistic view, pointing to the idea that these are not lost votes come the presidential election.

Responding to the primary results, Biden expressed gratitude to the voters but made no direct reference to the protest votes or the Gaza conflict. It is worth noting that when former Democratic President Barack Obama ran for re-election in 2012, he faced just shy of 21,000 “uncommitted” voters in Michigan’s primary that year. It was well over 21,000 for Clinton vs. Sanders in 2016 and just above 19,000 in 2020.

Meanwhile, the Republican primary saw former President Donald Trump clinching a decisive victory, further solidifying his hold on the party’s nomination. The outcome of Michigan’s primaries underscores the state’s pivotal role in shaping the national political landscape. As a battleground state crucial to both parties, Michigan’s voters have once again demonstrated their potential to influence the outcome of the upcoming presidential election.