Activist Layla Elabed speaks during an uncommitted vote election night gathering as Democrats and Republicans hold their M...

‘Uncommitted’ wins 2 Democratic delegates in Michigan, a victory for Biden’s anti-war opponents

LANSING, Michigan (AP) — “Uncommitted” got enough votes to win two delegates in Michigan’s Democratic primary on Tuesday, as an effort organized to protest President Joe Biden’s support for Israel’s war against Hamas in Gaza made its voice heard in the key swing state.

While Biden won the state with more than 618,000 votes, more than 100,000 Michigan Democratic primary voters cast ballots for “uncommitted” in the race, enough to pick up the pair of delegates — one from the 6th District, centered around Ann Arbor, and the other from the 12th District, which includes Detroit suburbs with large blocs of Arab Americans.

The vote totals raise concerns for Democrats in a state Biden won by only 154,000 votes in 2020. Biden was beaten by the “uncommitted” vote in both Dearborn and Hamtramck, where Arab Americans make up close to half the population.

Some local Democrats such as U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, the first Palestinian American woman to serve in Congress, had advocated for “uncommitted” votes to convey a message to Biden. Organizers of the “uncommitted” campaign, who had purposely set expectations low with a goal of at least 10,000 votes, celebrated Tuesday’s results as a win.

Biden still won 115 delegates on Tuesday and is well on his way to clinching the nomination over marginal competition.

WATCH: Michigan Democratic Party chair discusses ‘uncommitted’ primary voters

In 2012, during Barack Obama’s reelection bid, the “uncommitted” option received nearly 21,000 votes, representing 11 percentage points. The “uncommitted” vote totals in both 2016 and 2020 — when the Democratic primaries were contested — hovered around 20,000, which was less than 2 percentage points.

“Yesterday was a resounding victory,” Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud said Wednesday. “This is not just an Arab or Muslim issue now. This is an American issue now.”

“It’s my hope, Mr. President, that you listen to us, that you choose democracy over tyranny,” said Hammoud.

Unofficial results put the “uncommitted” total at close to 13 percent of overall vote in the Democratic primary.

The uncommitted delegates from Michigan will be free to vote for whomever they choose at the party’s national convention in Chicago this summer. The people who will fill those delegate seats will be selected at congressional district conventions on May 11.

It is common for states to offer voters the choice of voting for “uncommitted” or “no preference” in presidential primaries, though Michigan is the first state this cycle to award any of those delegates. On Super Tuesday next week, eight states will offer some variation of uncommitted in Democratic and Republican primaries.

READ MORE: Air Force member dies after setting himself on fire in Gaza war protest outside D.C. Israeli embassy

Abbas Alawieh, a spokesperson for Listen to Michigan, the group organizing the “uncommitted” push, told reporters Wednesday that it has already heard from organizers in other states looking to push a similar campaign.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said Wednesday that he expected a measure of Minnesota’s Somali population, the largest in the country, to vote “uncommitted” in his state’s Democratic primary on Super Tuesday. More than 86,000 Somalis live in Minnesota.

Walz, a major supporter of Biden’s reelection campaign, said Michigan’s “uncommitted” results were a healthy demonstration of democracy.

“I think they feel passionate, as they should, about an issue we all care about,” Walz said, adding that he expected most protest voters would eventually return to Biden’s side in a likely November rematch with former President Donald Trump, who himself has struggled with college-educated voters and suburbanites in his ongoing Republican primary against former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley.

“I’m much more convinced there’s a chance bringing those folks home is much greater than bringing the ‘Never Trump’ folks back home,” Walz said.

Miller reported from Washington.