Mar 6, 2024 - Politics

Why some Washington Democrats will vote "uncommitted"

People, some with political signs, standing in front of a building.

Faheem Khan from the American Muslim Advancement Council speaks at a Monday press conference calling for Washington Democrats to vote "uncommitted" in the March 12 presidential primary. Photo: Melissa Santos/Axios

Democrats calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war want Washington state voters to cast ballots for "uncommitted delegates" instead of President Biden in Tuesday's Democratic primary.

The big picture: The Washington-based effort comes after more than 100,000 Michigan primary voters chose "uncommitted" in that state's Democratic primary, as part of a similar protest of the Biden administration's support for the Israeli government.

  • Pro-ceasefire Democrats in Minnesota, Colorado and several other states urged voters there to do the same ahead of the March 5 Super Tuesday primaries.

What they're saying: "It is time for us to hold our president accountable, and that's by using the most precious tool we have — and that is our right to vote," Bothell City Councilmember Rami Al-Kabra, who is Palestinian-American, said at a press conference Monday in Seattle.

  • Voting uncommitted will "let President Biden know that our votes are not to be taken for granted," he added.

Between the lines: The Uncommitted WA coalition is asking the Biden administration to cut funding for Israel's military and call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

  • More than 30,000 people in Gaza have been killed since October, when Israel declared war on Hamas in response to Hamas' Oct. 7 attack on Israel.
  • The Uncommitted WA group includes United Food and Commercial Workers 3000, which represents tens of thousands of grocery, health care and retail workers, as well as members of the Democratic Socialists of America and Jewish Voices for Peace Action.

How it works: Voting for "uncommitted" delegates means you are voting to send delegates to the Democratic National Convention who aren't pledged to Biden.

  • That means they can cast votes for any candidate at the convention, which is when the party formally chooses its 2024 presidential nominee.

Yes, but: At least 15% of votes in Washington's Democratic primary need to be cast for "uncommitted delegates" for the state to send an unpledged delegate pool to the DNC.

State of play: The Washington state Democratic Party hasn't taken a formal position on the uncommitted delegates campaign, but "urges every member of our party to turn in their Presidential Primary Ballot by March 12," chair Shasti Conrad said in a written statement.

The fine print: While the Democratic primary ballot includes an option for "uncommitted delegates," the Republican ballot — which is printed and mailed to registered voters as part of the same consolidated document — does not.

  • If you choose the "uncommitted" option as a Democrat, you can't also write in another candidate's name or a political message, or your vote won't be counted toward the "uncommitted delegates" total.
  • Voters must fill out a party declaration on the outside of the ballot envelope and vote only in that party's primary — a departure from how Washington's elections typically work.

What's next: Presidential primary ballots must be postmarked by Tuesday or returned to a ballot drop box by 8pm that day.

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