Biden and Trump Dominate Tuesday Primaries, but Many Voters Still ‘Uncommitted’

Uncommitted Democrats have few options in November.
Biden and Trump Dominate Tuesday Primaries, but Many Voters Still ‘Uncommitted’
Voters sign in to vote at the Cerebral Palsy Center in Mount Pleasant, Wis., on Apr. 2, 2024. (Lawrence Wilson/The Epoch Times)
Beth Brelje
4/2/2024
Updated:
4/3/2024
0:00

As results were called Tuesday night, the projected presidential primary results in the four April 2 primary states—New York, Wisconsin, Connecticut, and Rhode Island—are not a huge surprise. In each state, Democrat President Joe Biden and Republican former President Donald Trump led their parties in votes.

What is more surprising is the number of votes that went to candidates who left the race, or to no candidate at all.

In Rhode Island, the majority of Democrats, 82 percent, voted for President Biden. But 15 percent snubbed the president, casting a vote as uncommitted, with 98 percent of the votes counted Tuesday.

In Connecticut, only 21 percent of Democrats’ votes had been counted by about 9:45 p.m., but the available results showed President Biden received 85 percent and uncommitted had 11 percent.

Only 23 percent of Republican votes in Connecticut were counted by 9:45 p.m., but the available results showed former President Trump with 79 percent and Ms. Haley with 14 percent. Uncommitted received 5 percent and Mr. DeSantis received 3 percent.

On the Republican ballot, 78 percent of Wisconsinites went for President Trump, 14 percent for Ms. Haley, 4 percent for Mr. DeSantis, and 2 percent for uninstructed, with 20 percent of the votes counted.

Republicans in New York gave former President Trump 80 percent of the vote and Ms. Haley 14 percent. Mr. Christie, who is a fixture in the New York and New Jersey region, received nearly 5 percent of the vote, with 23 percent of the ballots counted.

With the presumptive presidential candidates already determined, the dynamics of primary elections have changed for the rest of the primary season. Votes are now less about choosing the nominee—that has essentially been done—and more about throwing support toward, or away from, the presumed candidates.

Voters in the four April 2 primary states had little incentive to go to the polls and the proof is in the low voter turnout. Those who did show up used their vote to send messages to candidates.

Voters told The Epoch Times they came out to show support for—or vote against—the party front-runners. Some used the moment as a protest vote, picking a candidate who dropped out, just to punctuate that they are not pleased with the presumptive party pick.

At least one New York voter was confused after leaving the voting booth. She voted for Nikki Haley, who was still on the New York ballot.

“Biden is too old, and Trump has a lot of scandals. Nikki Haley seems good. We need a woman in office. It’s about time we gave a chance to a woman to be president,” the woman, age 41, told The Epoch Times. She was surprised to learn Ms. Haley had dropped out of the race. It is possible other voters were also confused when they saw former candidates’ names on the ballots in each state.

Uncommitted Voters

A.J. Braverman after casting his blank vote in the New York presidential primary election on April 2, 2024. (Juliette Fairley/The Epoch Times)
A.J. Braverman after casting his blank vote in the New York presidential primary election on April 2, 2024. (Juliette Fairley/The Epoch Times)

Some voters turned out to register a specific policy complaint through the organized “uncommitted” movement, which encourages Democrat voters to choose, or write-in, uncommitted instead of voting for President Biden, to show the dissatisfaction some feel over his handling of the Israel-Hamas war.

New York voter A.J. Braverman, 25, participated in the primary to cast a blank Democratic ballot.

“There’s a genocide happening in Palestine,” Mr. Braverman told The Epoch Times at his polling place. “I’ve voted Democrat my whole life. I’m young so it’s only been a few elections. I can’t stomach it, and I think we need people who are willing to [support] a free Palestine.”

He said President Biden must demand a ceasefire now from Israel, but that he cannot stop there. “He needs to continue on and make sure that Palestine is freed, and occupation is ended.”

Mr. Braverman is not yet sure what he will do in the November general election.

“I think I probably won’t be voting for any of the major party candidates.”

In New York, blank votes are not tallied for weeks, so results will not be known immediately.

The Uncommitted National Movement is an offshoot of the group Listen to Michigan, which started the movement. The group exists in other states with a similar name, Listen To (state name). The movement already has a political infrastructure for grassroots organizing. The group describes itself as multiracial, multifaith, and multigenerational.

“We are against Biden’s funding of the ongoing genocide in Gaza. We are a movement that is anti-war and pro-peace, and we are demanding an immediate and permanent ceasefire now,” Listen to Michigan’s website reads.

In Wisconsin’s April 2 primary, both parties had a ballot option to choose “Uninstructed Delegation,” which is the Wisconsin way of saying uncommitted. Listen to Wisconsin sent out 200,000 political mailings telling voters to vote uninstructed, to send Washington a message.

“By voting Uninstructed in Wisconsin, you'll be raising your voice for a permanent ceasefire and an end to U.S. money and weapons being sent to [Israel],” the mailer reads.

While it is unknown if the movement will influence President Biden’s decisions, it is educating voters about the group’s views.

Most ‘Uncommitted’ Are Democrats

In Michigan’s Feb. 27 primary, 13.2 percent of Democrat voters—more than 101,000 people—picked uncommitted over President Biden, who earned 81.1 percent of the votes. The state has a large population of Arab-Americans, and it has been said by political pundits that a presidential candidate cannot win the state without their support.

But on Michigan’s Republican ballot, 33,500 voters (3 percent) picked uncommitted over President Trump (68.1 percent) or Ms. Haley (26.6 percent). It proves that the Israel-Hamas war is not the only reason voters choose “uncommitted.” And it does not mean President Trump will win over uncommitted Democrat voters who are pulling their support from President Biden.

Another group, Democratic Socialists of America, is also advising Democrat voters to choose the uncommitted option in various states for the same reason, including in Rhode Island and Connecticut, where the option was on the ballot Tuesday.

The Democratic Socialists of America is urging Democrat voters in Pennsylvania to write in uncommitted on their April 23 primary election ballots. The group did not respond to a request for comment.

On Super Tuesday, March 5, in Minnesota, President Biden got 70 percent of the votes, but 45,914 (18.9 percent) voted uncommitted. The Republican ballot in Minnesota did not have an uncommitted option.

In most other states, uncommitted was a factor mostly on the Democrat ballot.

In Washington’s March 19 primary, uncommitted got 87,545 votes (9.9 percent), coming in second to President Biden who had 748,000 votes (84.5 percent). This was not a factor in the Republican race where President Trump won with 76.2 percent of the votes. This was the case in many states; the Democratic ballots received uncommitted votes and the Republican ballots did not. Some states normally include the “uncommitted” option on their ballots, others don’t. And the uncommitted movement is aimed at Democrats.

Still, on March 5, some 4,800 Tennessee Republicans (0.8 percent) voted uncommitted instead of naming a favorite Republican. And on the Democratic ballot, 10,461 (7.8 percent) voted uncommitted rather than a specific candidate.

Instead of that strategy, some Republican voters are choosing candidates who dropped out but are still on the ballot. In the March 14 Mississippi Primary, President Trump got 92.7 percent of the Republican votes, but Ms. Haley, who had dropped out by then, got 5.3 percent, or nearly 13,000 votes.

‘Trump Is Not Our Friend’

Voters who are solely focused on a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war have no candidate to support, unless either major candidate changes their position.

“The young people who put President Biden in office and turned out for Democrats in the midterms are now out protesting his policies in the streets,” Listen to Michigan said online.

The group did not respond to multiple requests for an interview, but it answers a lot of questions on its website, saying it would be difficult for President Biden to earn back the voters’ trust, and the last-minute uncommitted movement is “an act of desperation” to have the president hear their voice through the primary.

Uncommitted Democrats are not likely to switch their votes to President Trump in November.

“We are well-aware that Trump is not our friend. There is a long time between now and November for Biden to change his policies and earn support from Democratic voters,” the group’s website said.

President Trump has been supportive of Israel, but he said the war is damaging its image in the world.

In a recent interview with Israeli newspaper Israel Hayom, he said Israel fought back after the Oct. 7 attacks, but it was a mistake to release videos of Israel dropping bombs into Gaza buildings. The images of war are hurting Israel from a public relations standpoint, he said.

“I will say Israel has to be very careful because you are losing a lot of the world. You are losing a lot of support,” President Trump told the newspaper.

Pro-Palestinian voters won’t find solace from third party candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. on this issue.

“Israel was in a ceasefire on Oct. 7, so what would be different this time?” Mr. Kennedy told Reuters last week. “I think Israel understands that for everybody to progress, Hamas has to be destroyed.”

It is unclear who is left for these voters to support, or if any candidate could win them over with another issue.

The uncommitted movement made a dent in 2008, when Democrat candidate Hillary Clinton was placed on the ballot, but former President Barack Obama, then a senator, did not make it onto the Michigan ballot.

During the Michigan primary, President Obama mobilized voters to choose uncommitted to reject Ms. Clinton. She earned 54.61 percent of the vote and uncommitted earned 39.61 percent, sending a message to the Clinton campaign.

Beth Brelje is a national, investigative journalist covering politics, wrongdoing, and the stories of everyday people facing extraordinary circumstances. Send her your story ideas: [email protected]
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