Some Michigan Voters Are Uncommitted in the Primary, but What Does That Mean?

Michigan voters are voting uncommitted in the Feb. 27 primary in order to protest Biden's stance on the war in Gaza.

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Feb. 27 2024, Published 3:47 p.m. ET

A Michigan ballot with Uncommitted filled in.
Source: Getty Images

The 2024 presidential election seems likely to come down to a contest between President Joe Biden and Donald Trump, but even though that outcome seems clear, primaries are still happening in both major parties. On Feb. 27, 2024, the Michigan primary is set to take place, and it features a unique wrinkle on the Democratic side.

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While Biden may be the overwhelming frontrunner to become the Democratic nominee, some Michigan voters are planning to vote "Uncommitted" in the primary. Given that plan, many want to better understand what it means to vote uncommitted, and why these voters plan to do it.

A Ceasefire Now! sign on a car windshield.
Source: Getty Images
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What does voting uncommitted mean?

Voting uncommitted can only happen in a primary. It means that a voter is voting for a party, but is not committed to any individual candidate on the ballot. Instead, they cast a vote for "Uncommitted." If enough voters do this in a given state, then they might elect an uncommitted delegate who can attend the party's nominating convention without being pledged to any specific candidate. This delegate can then use their own discretion to back who they would prefer.

In the case of Michigan, it seems unlikely, though not impossible, that enough voters will vote "Uncommitted" to elect any uncommitted delegates. In this case, the uncommitted vote is designed more to send a message to the president.

In this case, these voters are voting uncommitted to signal to Biden that they are not pleased with his stance on the war happening in Gaza.

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While much of the western world has called for a ceasefire, Biden has remained more closely aligned with Israel, and has refused to call for a total ceasefire in spite of the massive loss of Palestinian life in the days since Hamas's Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

The campaign is supported by many elected leaders in Michigan, which has one of the largest populations of Arab Americans in the country, about half of whom voted for Biden in 2020.

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“We have lost family members, we have lost friends, we have lost loved ones. … This community is made up of immigrants, first, second, third and so on, generations from that region. So this largely affects our community. Biden’s core constituency — Democrats,” said Layla Elabed, an activist in Michigan who is voting uncommitted.

“We’ve protested, we’ve demonstrated, we’ve done die-ins. We’ve used our social media to appeal for a permanent cease-fire. We’ve written to our representatives, our elected officials. We’ve passed city resolutions within our own communities,” she continued. “It seems that our rallying cries are not loud enough.”

It's unclear whether this step will be enough to get the president to reconsider his position on the war in Gaza. What seems clear, though, is that Biden will need some of these voters to support him if he wants to win the state of Michigan in 2024, and he'll need to win Michigan if he wants to win reelection. These protests speak to the discontent that some of those voters feel eight months out from the election.

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