Wisconsin residents protest the U.S.-backed Israeli war on Gaza

Wisconsin residents protest the U.S.-backed Israeli war on Gaza in Madison, Wisconsin.

(Photo: @listentowi/Twitter)

Campaigners Push for 'Uninstructed' Vote in Wisconsin to Protest Biden Gaza Policy

"How our leaders invest our tax dollars across the globe should reflect our core values and voter interests," said one organizer.

Warning that U.S. President Joe Biden must listen to the demands of voters in a key state that he won by less than 1%, a coalition in Wisconsin on Tuesday urged Democratic voters to use their primary ballots to pressure the president to decisively push for an end to Israel's war in Gaza.

"Wisconsinites: It's up to us to take a stance against injustice," said Freedom Action Now, one of several groups supporting the Listen to Wisconsin campaign, which is calling on voters to mark the "uninstructed delegation" option on their primary ballots.

The "vote uninstructed" push is the state's version of campaigns in a number of states where organizers have called on voters to vote for the uncommitted option, to write in "cease-fire," or to leave their ballots blank in lieu of voting for Biden in the primary.

With 71% of Wisconsin Democrats supporting an immediate and permanent cease-fire in Israel's U.S.-backed bombardment of Gaza, according to a poll released Monday by Poll Progressive Strategies, organizers said Tuesday that Biden cannot afford to ignore the demand.

"Families right here in Wisconsin have lost innocent loved ones in Gaza and thousands of American troops have been moved to the region as Israel continues to escalate toward potential regional warfare," reads the FAQ on Listen to Wisconsin's official website. "While our families face rising prices, our government has sent billions of dollars in military aid to Israel and prepared our troops to backstop a war that most Americans do not support. How our leaders invest our tax dollars across the globe should reflect our core values and voter interests."

In the same poll, more than 1 in 5 Democratic voters said Biden's policy in Israel and Gaza would impact their vote in the November general election. One hundred percent of respondents under age 29 said they strongly or somewhat support an immediate and permanent cease-fire, and 65% of voters in that age group said they strongly disapprove of Biden's handling of the war.

In addition to a permanent cease-fire, Listen to Wisconsin is calling on the U.S. to reinstate aid to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), for which the government suspended funding in January over unsubstantiated Israeli claims of Hamas links within the group's ranks and which Congress voted last month to cut funding for until March 2025. Organizers also called for "the full entry of humanitarian aid" into Gaza and "an end to U.S. military aid to Israel."

The nationwide uncommitted movement began in February as campaigners established Listen to Michigan with the aim of convincing at least 10,000 Democratic voters in the crucial swing state to vote uncommitted in the state primary. More than 100,000 voters, or 13%, ultimately cast uncommitted ballots.

Nineteen percent of Minnesota Democrats also voted uncommitted, as well as 13% of North Carolina primary voters and 10% of voters in Washington state.

Listen to Wisconsin said it hopes to convince 20,000 Democratic voters in the state to mark "uninstructed delegate," which would be roughly equal to Biden's narrow margin of victory over former Republican President Donald Trump—now the presumptive GOP nominee—in 2020.

"The margins of our elections are so incredibly close—less than 1% in the last two presidential election cycles—so I think it would behoove the administration to pay attention," Reema Ahmad, lead organizer with the group, told NPR on Tuesday.

If Biden doesn't use his leverage as the biggest international funder of Israel's military to demand a permanent cease-fire, Ahmad added, "he needs to understand that his chances of winning in November are very bleak."

State Rep. Francesca Hong (D-76) pledged her support Tuesday for the "vote uninstructed" push.

"We stand for democracy, for human rights, and safety for everyone, and we deserve leaders who reflect our values," said Hong.

In Tuesday's Democratic primaries, voters in Rhode Island and Connecticut will have the option of voting uncommitted, and campaigners in New York are urging Democratic voters to leave their ballots blank to signal that Biden cannot yet count on their support in November.

In Wisconsin, groups including Voces de la Frontera Action—the state's largest network of Latino voters—and Black Leaders Organizing Communities have backed the Listen to Wisconsin campaign, along with the Sunrise Movement, which said the war in Gaza has emerged as a "climate voter issue."

"Sunrise Movement is fighting for clean air, drinkable water, and safe communities," said Aru Shiney-Ajay, executive director of the group. "We believe the people of Palestine deserve that too. There has been more emissions produced by U.S.-financed bombs in Gaza than the emissions of 20 small countries. We need Biden to fight for peace so that we can collectively fight for more climate wins in the future."

Michelle Wiendling, political director of Sunrise Movement, said Biden is "hemorrhaging the support of young voters by aiding in the destruction of people's lives and homes in Gaza."

"Biden's best chance to succeed in November is by supporting an immediate and permanent cease-fire and ending unconditional military aid to the Israeli government," said Wiendling. "If President Biden wants to defeat Trump, he must listen to young people, people of color, and the working class who put him in office in 2020 and immediately change course."

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