Advertisement

'Uncommitted' Biden protest votes winning some delegates as he dominates Democratic primary

President Joe Biden is on track to soon clinch the 2024 Democratic nomination on his way to a general election rematch with former President Donald Trump.

But while Biden has handily won every state that has voted so far, the "uncommitted" option -- which has been promoted as a way to protest his policies in the Israel-Hamas war -- is winning some delegates in a handful of states, too.

The latest example was with Wednesday's Democratic caucuses in Hawaii: Based upon results from the state's Democratic Party, ABC News reports that 455 ballots went for uncommitted, out of less than 1,500 total, which is estimated to be enough to earn seven delegates to the party's national convention this summer.

(Biden has also had his only defeat in the territory of American Samoa, where 51 voters in the Democratic caucuses there chose little-known entrepreneur Jason Palmer over the 40 voters who picked Biden.)

Hawaii follows Michigan and Minnesota in sending uncommitted delegates to the Democratic National Convention, according to ​ABC's estimates -- although, unlike in those two states, there appears to have been no concerted effort in Hawaii to get voters to choose uncommitted due to Biden's support for Israel or for other reasons.

Michigan was where the protest vote movement first emerged during the nominating race.

Pro-Palestinian organizers in the state, which has a sizable population of people of Middle Eastern and North African descent, urged voters to cast uncommitted in a rebuke of Biden's support of Israel's campaign against Hamas fighters in Gaza, where tens of thousands of people have been killed so far, according to the Hamas-run health ministry there. The war was sparked by Hamas' Oct. 7 terror attack.

"In a democracy you are told when things are not going right, you use the ballot box to send your message," Michigan state Rep. Abraham Aiyash, who supported the uncommitted movement, has said.

Approximately 101,000 votes were cast for uncommitted in Michigan in late February, about 13% of the total and enough to win two delegates, according to ABC News' count and estimate.

"Our message has been clear," a strategist and spokesperson for Listen to Michigan, one of the groups behind the uncommitted campaign, said after the vote.

Reacting to those results, a senior Biden campaign adviser previously said in a statement to ABC Chief White House Correspondent Mary Bruce that "we understand that it's an emotional, painful, difficult situation for a lot of people. President Biden shares the goal of many of the folks who voted uncommitted, which is an end to the violence and a just and lasting peace. That is what he is working towards."

PHOTO: People hug at the People hug at the Listen to Michigan watch party, a group who asked voters to vote uncommitted instead of for President Joe Biden in Michigan's primary election, in Dearborn, Mi., Feb. 27, 2024.  (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images)
PHOTO: People hug at the People hug at the Listen to Michigan watch party, a group who asked voters to vote uncommitted instead of for President Joe Biden in Michigan's primary election, in Dearborn, Mi., Feb. 27, 2024. (Jeff Kowalsky/AFP via Getty Images)

Uncommitted organizers said after Michigan that advocates from Minnesota and Washington state had reached out, seeking support for similar efforts in their states, which also allow uncommitted to be on the ballot.

Minnesota, another state with notable Muslim and Arab American voters, held its Democratic primary on Super Tuesday and uncommitted got about 46,000 votes, or 19% of the total, receiving an estimated 11 delegates per ABC News' tracking.

Washington state's primary is next Tuesday.

The uncommitted delegates will give anti-Biden voters in the Democratic Party a voice -- if a relatively smaller one -- at the national convention in August, which will be dominated by Biden supporters looking to rally the party against Trump.

"They could protest. They could make recommendations to change bylaws," Florida delegate Nadia Ahmed has told ABC News.

At the same time, some of the advocates acknowledged that they don't expect to replicate their success in Michigan elsewhere in the country.

"We know we're not going to get the same results," Listen to Michigan's Abbas Alawieh previously said.

James Zogby echoed that: "I'm kind of like, ‘Let's look at what we did, the message we sent to Joe Biden in Michigan kind of stands on its own."

The increasing number of uncommitted delegates is dwarfed by Biden's success with Democratic voters so far: According to ABC News' count, he has 1,611 delegates, more than 80% of the number needed to clinch the party's nomination.

In total, Biden has also received more than 6 million votes compared to about 370,000 for the uncommitted options.

PHOTO: President Joe Biden speaks at the Culver City Julian Dixon Library in Culver City, Calif., on Feb. 21, 2024. (Allison Dinner/EPA via Shutterstock)
PHOTO: President Joe Biden speaks at the Culver City Julian Dixon Library in Culver City, Calif., on Feb. 21, 2024. (Allison Dinner/EPA via Shutterstock)

History shows this isn't the first time that uncommitted has gotten noticed by Democratic voters.

In 2012, when President Barack Obama ran for reelection and didn't face the same burgeoning protest as Biden does, more than 40% of the ballots in Kentucky (about 87,000 votes) went to uncommitted; in North Carolina, a "no preference" option got about 200,000 primary votes instead of going to Obama that year; and in Alabama, uncommitted got about 45,000 votes.

Uncommitted or no preference options do not appear on every state nominating ballot, making it harder to assess how popular they would be. But the choices draw votes in election cycles without organized protest movements, too.

In 2020, when Biden ran in a crowded Democratic field including Sen. Bernie Sanders and others, uncommitted also received some votes -- about 58,000 in Kentucky, enough for two delegates that year, for example.

Republican voters choose uncommitted sometimes as well: The option got about 33,000 ballots in Michigan this year when Trump beat former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley. That was about a third of the uncommitted votes on the Democratic side, when pro-Palestinian activists rallied against Biden.

'Uncommitted' Biden protest votes winning some delegates as he dominates Democratic primary originally appeared on abcnews.go.com