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Minnesota's 'uncommitted' voters firmly rebuke Biden's support for Gaza war

Uncommitted vote garnered nearly 20 percent in Democratic primary, sending Biden a message that his policy on Gaza is unpopular not only in Michigan

More than 45,000 voters, or 19 percent of all Democratic voters, chose "uncommitted" in the US presidential primary election, sending President Joe Biden yet another message that his administration's policy on Gaza will cost him ahead of a potentially contentious general election in November.

At a joint press conference on Wednesday, hosted by Vote Uncommited Minnesota and Listen to Michigan, ecstatic organisers said that voters were letting the president know it was time to change course on Gaza.

"It is time for ceasefire. It is time for a permanent ceasefire. The time is now," said Asma Nizami, spokesperson for the Vote Uncommitted Minnesota campaign.

Organisers said the campaign - a multifaith, multiracial and multigenerational coalition - was put together following the success of the uncommitted campaign launched in Michigan, where more than 100,000 voters cast a protest vote against Biden's unrelenting support for Israel's war in Gaza. Over the next week, different organisations cobbled together an eleventh-hour “uncommitted” effort of their own in Minnesota.

Organisers from a number of groups - including the Abandon Biden campaign, Vote Uncommitted Minnesota, as well as other Muslims, Arabs and progressive voters - worked tirelessly to urge their communities to get to their polling stations and vote, using phone banks, social media and door-knocking campaigns.

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By the end of the night, 45,910 uncommitted votes were cast in the Minnesota Democratic Party primary election, garnering 18.9 percent of the vote.

This means that Democratic Farmer Labor Party (DFL) will send 11 delegates to the Democratic National Convention in August.

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"Last night was a show of the potency and power of democracy. Instead of choosing to sit out of an important election, Muslim Minnesotans and those of good conscience took their anger, hurt and horror of the atrocities taking place in Gaza and made the choice to voice our dissent, sending the clear message: We need a ceasefire now!" Asad Zaman, an imam with the Muslim Coalition of Faith in Minnesota, told Middle East Eye.

Zaman said that a coalition of Muslim leaders filled "over 200 volunteer shifts [for] phone banking, door knocking and text-banking our community to contact a list of 62,000 Muslim Minnesotans".

"This is about the dignity of Muslim voices here in the US and Muslim lives abroad," Zaman said about the results.

Since Israel's war in Gaza began last October, the US has provided Israel with diplomatic cover and military support.

Over the past five months, Israeli forces have killed 30,000 Palestinians and driven Gaza to the brink of mass starvation.

'We didn't vote to harm another human being, or to kill another human child'

Ismail, Somali refugee in Minnesota

Legal experts, Palestinians and several countries have accused Israel of genocide, while an ongoing lawsuit in the US is accusing the Biden administration of failing to stop a genocide taking place in Gaza.

"I, myself, I'm a person who has been in a refugee camp, and I can relate to a kid who has gone to a refugee camp. It's not a good place to be. I cannot allow any human being to put another human being in that kind of situation," said Ismail, a refugee from Somalia who now lives in Minnesota.

Ismail said he found out about the campaign on Tuesday, and took the rest of the day to help campaign and encourage others to cast a protest vote against Biden.

"We didn't vote to harm another human being, or to kill another human child."

'You can't take our votes for granted'

The results of the uncommitted vote were surprising to many, including the organisers of the vote themselves.

On Tuesday evening, organisers gathered at a watch party to follow the results as they trickled in. Whenever the latest number of votes was announced, the crowd erupted in cheers, followed by chants of "Free Palestine! Free Palestine!"

'The results are phenomenally greater than what I had expected'

Hassan Abdel Salam, the Abandon Biden campaign

"We have folks here that are Muslim, Arab, progressives, white Americans, Jewish Americans, everyone is so thrilled about this result," Hassan Abdel Salam, a co-chair for the Abandon Biden campaign in Minnesota and professor of human rights at the University of Minnesota, said in a phone call with MEE.

"The results are phenomenally greater than what I had expected," Salam added.

Maamoun, a resident of the Twin Cities in Minnesota, who worked on social media campaigning for the uncommitted vote, said the results show that both Biden and the Democratic Party have altered the voting pattern of the Muslim community because of the ongoing atrocities in Gaza.

"You cannot take our voices for granted any more, you cannot expect us to just show up. We're not going to forget when November comes around," Maamoun told MEE.

While Minnesota is likely to vote Democrat in the general election, as it has in the past several presidential elections, the number of uncommitted votes holds significance. The vote total is, for example, higher than the margin of victory for Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump in 2016. Clinton won the state by fewer than 45,000 votes.

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A deeper look into the numbers also shows a grimmer prospect for the Democratic Party in Minnesota.

In three Minnesota House districts, the uncommitted vote defeated Biden in the primary election, while clearing more than 40 percent of the vote in a fourth district.

"The Muslim vote and Muslim community has been taken for granted for far too long. We have been just taken for granted that we will automatically be voting for the Democratic Party," Sadia Tarannum, co-chair of the Abandon Biden campaign in Minnesota, told MEE.

"The hope is that these numbers send a message, and I hope the Democratic Party takes notice of this - that our votes are not to be taken lightly, that our votes need to be earned."

But in response to questions from MEE, organisers from Vote Uncommitted Minnesota and Listen to Michigan said Biden could win back voters should he change his stance.

"We're asking the president to change course because we want Democrats to show up in November," said Nizami, from Vote Uncommitted Minnesota.

"So many of us don't want a [Donald] Trump presidency. That's why we are calling on Biden to make a change and to make it now."

Likewise, Layla Elabed, from Listen Michigan, said it was up to Biden now to change course.

"We're offering a gift right now to the Biden administration and the Democratic Party to change course right now; to listen to your constituencies, to listen to your base that are overwhelmingly demanding a permanent ceasefire and an end to funding to Israel and [Benjamin] Netanyahu's war crimes, and to act now," Elabed said.

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