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'Uncommitted' vote against Biden blows past goal in Minnesota's Democratic primary

In Minnesota's primary for the Democratic Party, more than 45,000 people voted uncommitted. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said on CNN Wednesday morning that "these are voters that are deeply concerned, as we all are. The situation in Gaza is intolerable."

Semira Ibrahim of Apple Valley held a sign urging voters to vote uncommitted, at a news conference outside the federal courthouse in Minneapolis on Feb. 26., (Aaron Lavinsky, Star Tribune)

A push from progressive Minnesotans and members of the Muslim community to get voters to check "uncommitted" in the state's Democratic presidential primary won nearly 46,000 votes Tuesday, far surpassing their goal of 5,000 votes.

Organizers of the campaign declared victory Tuesday night, saying the result will send a message to President Joe Biden that large factions of his own party want him to support a permanent cease-fire in Gaza.

"We're doing this so President Biden knows Democrats have had enough of this endless support of a genocidal regime," said Asma Mohammed, an organizer with the campaign. "We've had enough with seeing broken bodies of Palestinian children every time we open our phones, and today we are showing him that Minnesota is on the side of justice and humanity."

Organizers set a goal of doubling the number of uncommitted votes in the last presidential primary. The campaign is building on momentum from a similar push in Michigan, which earned more than 100,000 votes in the state's primary last week. Minnesota and Michigan were crucial states in Biden's 2020 victory.

While Biden overwhelmingly won the primary with 70% of the vote, the uncommitted votes came in second, earning nearly 19% of the vote and beating Minnesota DFL U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, who got just under 8% in his home state. Given their turnout, the uncommitted campaign will be able to send 11 delegates from Minnesota to the DNC's convention in Chicago in August.

"More votes than Dean Phillips!" activist Walter Fromm of Minneapolis said at Vote Uncommitted MN's watch party Tuesday night in a vacant storefront on Lake Street. "Let's go!"

Fromm said he made thousands of phone calls for the Biden campaign in 2020, but he and others who volunteered for Biden are angry with him now. "Everybody who worked with me then is voting uncommitted today," Fromm said.

He guessed Vote Uncommitted MN volunteers called and texted about 200,000 voters over the last week. Asked what he might do in November, Fromm said, "Donald Trump is a serious threat to our country and the world."

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"What I want more than anything is for Joe Biden to act like he doesn't want Donald Trump to be in office."

A half dozen other Super Tuesday states had a similar push for a protest vote against Biden. In North Carolina, more than 12% of voters selected "no preference," while more than 9% did the same in Massachusetts. "Noncommitted delegate" finished second to Biden in Colorado's Democratic primary.

The Vote Uncommitted MN campaign launched a week before the primary and spent $20,000 on digital advertising, voter contact, organizing and operational costs.

At their watch party Tuesday, they snacked on cookies and nuts, watching results update on the New York Times' website. Every time the page updated, they cheered.

Yasmin Hirsi of Apple Valley said she was already disappointed that Biden had not been able to forgive all student loans or protect abortion rights. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2022 that there is no constitutional right to an abortion.

"This is like the breaking point for me," Hirsi said. Right now, she plans to sit out the November election, though Hirsi worries Muslim voters will be blamed if Trump wins the general election. She hopes Biden will shift his policies.

Hirsi knocked on doors for Vote Uncommitted MN on Tuesday, posted online a lot and talked to her friends and family about the campaign. Many had not even known there was a presidential primary, much less that they could vote "uncommitted."

In 2020, "uncommitted" got only 2,612 votes in Minnesota's Democratic presidential primary, compared with more than 287,000 for Biden and 222,000 for Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz said on CNN Wednesday morning that "these are voters that are deeply concerned, as we all are. The situation in Gaza is intolerable."