Skip to main content
Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Will uncommitted Michigan votes send message to Biden? It may take a lot

people line up to vote
With voting already underway in Michigan’s 2024 presidential primary, some Democrats are turning to the uncommitted option in lieu of voting to reelect President Joe Biden. (Bridge file photo)
  • ‘Listen to Michigan’ is an effort to have voters choose ‘uncommitted’ on their Democratic ballots in the presidential primary 
  • The movement is in hopes that Biden will call a permanent ceasefire in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war
  • Early in person voting is already underway in the primary, which will officially take place Tuesday

Feb. 29: Detroit is big for Joe Biden. Primary turnout was small
Feb. 28: Michigan 2024 results: 13% of Democrats ‘uncommitted.’ Will it matter to Biden?

When it comes to voting in Michigan’s presidential primary on Tuesday, some Democrats are at a crossroads.

President Joe Biden has been unwavering in his support for Israel as the ongoing war with Hamas continues in Gaza. However, as the Palestinian civilian death toll climbs, so too have calls for a permanent ceasefire.


The effort has given way to the “Listen to Michigan” campaign. It seeks to have Democratic voters cast their ballots as “uncommitted” come Tuesday, hoping it will send a message to the Biden campaign that voters could abandon him in November should he continue supporting Israel.

State Rep. Abraham Aiyash, D-Hamtramck, said uncommitted voters hope to tell Biden that voters don’t want to fund “efforts that are killing innocent men, women and children.” 

That “should not be a radical idea,” he said.


While organizers have said they believe as many as 10,000 to 20,000 uncommitted votes would make their point, voting records indicate that is a pittance of previous elections.

In 2008, “uncommitted” votes were cast by 238,168 Democratic primary voters when Michigan ballots did not list Barack Obama as a candidate for president. 

Even in the 2020 primary, 1.2% of Democratic voters, 38,000 in all, voted uncommitted.

Lansing pollster Bernie Porn said it would take a “couple hundred thousand” uncommitted votes to send a message to Biden, and even then, it would not prompt him to call for a ceasefire.

Who’s supporting the effort?

Thirty-nine state and local officials have so far pledged to vote “uncommitted” on their Democratic primary ballots, according to The Detroit News.

Other local, state and federal politicians backing the initiative include U.S. Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit, Hamtramck Mayor Amer Ghalib and Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud, also a former Democratic House lawmaker.

“It is … important to create a voting bloc, something that is a bullhorn to say, ‘enough is enough.’ We don’t want a country that supports wars and bombs and destruction,” Tlaib said in a video posted online Feb. 17. 

Former U.S. Rep. Andy Levin, a Democrat, likened the uncommitted movement to addressing someone with a substance abuse problem. Instead of continuing on as if nothing were wrong, he said, a good friend would confront the issue head on.

 “Joe Biden … he needs to step up and be a peacemaker, and really exert American leadership,”  Levin said on a Feb. 16 appearance on WKAR’s “Off the Record.”

The issue is especially divisive in Michigan, which is home to about 300,000 residents who identify as Middle Eastern or North African and about 105,000 Michiganders who identify as Jewish.

What other Dems are saying

Officials with the Biden campaign were back in Michigan this week, specifically Flint and Detroit.  Mitch Landrieu, a national co-chair of Biden’s reelection campaign and former mayor of New Orleans, said the president was taking voters’ concerns seriously. 

He also, however, reportedly cautioned that November would inevitably be “about a choice between Donald Trump and Joe Biden,” according to reporting from the Detroit News.


Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, also a co-chair of Biden’s reelection campaign, was less forward in her remarks, instead acknowledging “the angst that people are feeling about what’s happening in Gaza and Israel is real.” 

“This is a very high stakes election, and I would encourage people to vote affirmatively for the candidate that most represents what they value and where they think that we should head as a nation,” she said Wednesday, at a Lansing-based event meant to encourage early voting.

The pollster, Porn, agreed, saying that no matter what Democrats’ problems are with Biden, “I believe that they would discover it’s many times worse if Trump were elected.”

“If it were not for Biden’s trailing, not only in Michigan but other battleground states, I would say (the movement) may well be forgotten and not have an impact,” Porn said. “But… the folks who are pushing for this could very well end up getting blamed if Biden ends up losing to Trump.”

Editor’s note: In the 2008 Presidential primary, 238,168 uncommitted votes were cast on the Democratic ticket. This story was corrected on Feb. 27, 2024 because an earlier version misstated the number of uncommitted votes

How impactful was this article for you?

Only donate if we've informed you about important Michigan issues

See what new members are saying about why they donated to Bridge Michigan:

  • “In order for this information to be accurate and unbiased it must be underwritten by its readers, not by special interests.” - Larry S.
  • “Not many other media sources report on the topics Bridge does.” - Susan B.
  • “Your journalism is outstanding and rare these days.” - Mark S.

If you want to ensure the future of nonpartisan, nonprofit Michigan journalism, please become a member today. You, too, will be asked why you donated and maybe we'll feature your quote next time!

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Pay with PayPal Donate Now