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“Uninstructed” Primary Vote in Wisconsin Seeks to Influence Biden’s Gaza Policies

More than 46,000 Wisconsinites used the "uninstructed" option in the Democratic presidential primary race this week.

President Joe Biden arrives for an event at the Pieper-Hillside Boys and Girls Club on March 13, 2024, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Tens of thousands of voters in Wisconsin on Tuesday night voted “uninstructed” in the statewide Democratic presidential primary contest, hoping to demonstrate to President Joe Biden the political need for him to change his tactics when it comes to influencing Israel to agree to a ceasefire action in its continued genocidal war against Palestinians living in Gaza.

Around 8.4 percent of voters taking part in the primary election contest — amounting to 47,846 votes total — chose “uninstructed” versus selecting Biden in the race. The raw vote number is more than twice the total number of votes that helped Biden win the state (over former President Donald Trump) in the 2020 presidential election, demonstrating that these voters are indeed crucial for him to win the swing state again in the 2024 race.

The uninstructed protest vote was largely coordinated by a group calling itself Listen to Wisconsin. That organization said that it was urging Democratic-leaning voters to back the “uninstructed” option to demand an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza and an end to the military siege in the region by Israel, as well as reinstating humanitarian aid and funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees and an end to future unrestricted aid from the U.S. to Israel.

Members of the organization and its allies believe that the Biden administration should do more to pressure Israel into agreeing to those actions.

“Our votes in the Democratic Primary are a tool to send a clear message to the administration that the margin of victory in Wisconsin will be determined by a serious and immediate change in this administration’s approach in Gaza,” the group said on its website.

Members of the Listen to Wisconsin coalition have said their protest vote is necessary to demonstrate their anger with the administration’s inaction.

“I feel really betrayed by the party leadership,” said Halah Ahmad, a Palestinian American activist and spokesperson for Listen to Wisconsin, speaking to NBC News about the vote. “I think history will be on our side but, for now, if I want to participate in this democracy, the uninstructed campaign is my only option.”

Although a sizable portion of voters sided against Biden in the primary election, the numbers won’t be reflected in the total delegate count, due to primary election rules that stipulate any candidate (or non-candidate) has to obtain at least 15 percent of the vote before any delegates can be proportioned out. That means, despite only obtaining 88 percent of the vote on Tuesday, Biden will win 100 percent of Wisconsin’s 79 delegates for his presidential nomination. Were the outcome of the vote proportional in spite of that rule, the Listen to Wisconsin campaign for “uninstructed” votes would have obtained around six or seven delegates.

Still, Heba Mohammad, another Listen to Wisconsin activist, lauded the outcome of the election on Tuesday, which saw more than 1 in 12 voters in the Democratic Party’s presidential primary vote uninstructed.

“We have blown [Biden’s] last margin of victory out of the water,” Mohammad said. “He needs to be paying attention and calling for an immediate, permanent cease-fire, as soon as possible.”

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