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Sandra Whitehead, Wisconsin Muslim Journal, Mar 19, 2024

Protesters at President Joe Biden’s visit to Milwaukee last week carried a 20-foot banner promoting the “Uninstructed Vote.” All Photos by Kamal Moon

An anti-war protest vote campaign to bring a ceasefire in Gaza launches today in Wisconsin. On the first day of early voting, citizens are urged to vote “uninstructed” in the primary election.

Voting “uninstructed” (meaning basically “for no one”) sends a message to the Biden administration that its support of the Israeli military’s “genocide in Gaza is unacceptable,” explained Halah Ahmad, who is managing communications for Listen to Wisconsin, the grassroots group promoting the Wisconsin Uninstructed campaign.

(“Uninstructed” is the term used in Wisconsin; some states use the term “uncommitted.” And not all states have this option on their ballots.)

Wisconsin’s late presidential primary means President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump have already secured enough delegates to be their parties’ nominees in November. However, the primary election is an ideal time “to show that we’re really serious about the White House taking action now to stop the violence in Gaza,” Ahmad told the Wisconsin Muslim Journal in an interview Friday.

“We are one of the states that often determines the presidential election, and by a narrow margin,” she said. “A majority of Americans have been calling for a ceasefire for months and haven’t been heard. This campaign is driven by people who are using democracy to make their demands heard. People feel encouraged to have that option.


“We are focused on immediate policy impact. We want the White House to take action right now to stop the violence in Gaza,” Ahmad said. However, how people vote in November may depend on what the Biden administration does between now and then. “Our hope is that by pressuring Biden in the primary, we can change his position on the war to align with the vast majority of voters who want a ceasefire.”

At a press conference this morning in front of Milwaukee’s City Hall, Listen to Wisconsin community leaders listed their demands:

  • An immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza
  • An end to the siege of Gaza
  • Reinstate humanitarian aid and UNRWA funding
  • End unrestricted aid to Israel

They were joined by the lead organizer from Minnesota, where they secured 45,000 uncommitted votes in its primary. Also attending were Janan Najeeb of the Wisconsin Coalition for Justice in Palestine and Wisconsin Rep. Ryan Clancy (D-Milwaukee) an outspoken critic of the Israeli military’s bombardment of Gaza.

Adding her voice, Wisconsin State Representative Francesa Hong said in a press release, “The truth is, many of my constituents have felt appalled and betrayed by our government and the Democratic Party on the issue of Gaza. For most Americans, a permanent ceasefire now is an uncontroversial demand and is a matter of humanity. Additionally, ending military aid to Israel is required by law through the Foreign Assistance Act as Israel continues to impede vital aid shipments, including our own, to a starving population in Gaza that has lost over 30,000 people, primarily women and children.

“We as electeds have an obligation to listen to voters, not the other way around,” Hong continued. “I support voters’ efforts to make their policy demands on Gaza heard by voting Uninstructed in the Democratic Presidential Primary. As a proud American who celebrates our democracy, I stand behind Wisconsinites who want to use the democratic process to protest this ongoing genocide.”

Early in-person voting in Wisconsin begins today and runs through March 31, but could end earlier in some communities. Hours and locations also vary by community.

The 11 a.m. press conference was live-streamed on Wisconsin Coalition for Justice in Paletstine Instagram. A recording is available on the account.

Listen to Wisconsin campaign strategy

Listen to Wisconsin “calls for an end to the ongoing genocide” that has killed over 31,000 Palestinians in Gaza, “aided and abetted by the Biden administration,” a press release stated. To do so, the multi-faith, multi-generational movement aims to persuade 20,000 discontented voters to fill in the “Uninstructed Delegation” bubble on the Democratic Presidential Primary. “That equals roughly the same number of votes by which President Biden won in the last election,” it continued.

“We are pushing for ‘Uninstructed’ votes in the primary because we have to do whatever it takes to stop this genocide and tell our elected leadership that this injustice does not represent the will of the people—and it may cost them the election in November if they don’t change course,” said volunteer Heba Mohammad, who was the 2020 Wisconsin Digital Organizing Director who helped secure Biden’s election victory in Wisconsin.

Supporters of the Uninstructed Campaign protested at President Biden’s visit to Milwaukee last week, bringing a 20-foot banner promoting the “Uninstructed Vote.” They also distributed flyers that explained their goals and how to vote in the Democratic Presidential Primary. They joined about 400 protestors who rallied at Dontre Hamilton Park Wednesday and marched by a stop on President Biden’s Wisconsin visit.

“We had hundreds of protestors show up at the last minute to meet President Biden with our demands for an end to this genocide in Gaza—even though the location of the event was kept confidential until a short time before it took place,” said volunteer organizer Yaseen Najeeb of Milwaukee. “I think that’s very telling. People are here to call attention to the “Uninstructed” vote as a real threat to Biden’s campaign if he won’t impose a permanent ceasefire now.”

Wisconsin’s protest vote joins national movement

Following an example set in Michigan, followed by Minnesota and Washington, the Wisconsin Uninstructed Campaign urges voters to vote “uninstructed” in the Democratic primary.

In Michigan’s February primary, the “uncommitted” vote secured more than 100,000 voters, winning two delegates, Ahmad noted.

“There are conversations all over the country among people who work in electoral politics and care a lot about what is happening politically but also about what’s happening in Gaza,” she said. “The numbers of people, especially children, killed in Gaza are far beyond the worst we could imagine.”

After Michigan’s success, participants in the Wisconsin for Justice in Palestine Coalition, which includes representatives of 64 diverse organizations, began discussing what actions could be taken in Wisconsin. Several member organizations, including the Wisconsin Muslim Civic Alliance, as well as individuals decided to work on the Wisconsin Uninstructed campaign.

Leaders of Michigan’s campaign announced an “Uncommitted National Movement” yesterday. It aims to expand on the growing movement in several states to create a national united network. In remarks on the National Uncommitted Movement launch, Mohammad said, “Wisconsin is not only important for electoral reasons—our state represents the heartbeat of the country. As people of conscience, and pro-democracy, pro-justice voters, we’re going to use the primary to call for an end to the genocide now. We cannot bypass this opportunity.”

Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors to vote on ceasefire resolution Thursday

In another effort to stop bloodshed in Gaza, a resolution calling for an “immediate and permanent ceasefire” in Israel’s War on Gaza will go before the Milwaukee County Board of Supervisors Thursday morning. If passed, Milwaukee County will join about 100 U.S. municipalities and counties calling for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.

The Wisconsin Coalition for Justice in Palestine, which includes 64 diverse organizations, as well as individuals and otherorganizations calling for a ceasefire in Gaza have been collaborating to set up meetings between Milwaukee County supervisors and their constituents, said volunteer Heba Mohammad, a member of Milwaukee for Palestine, in an interview with Wisconsin Muslim Journal. 

“We’ve been hitting roadblocks with some supervisors who either ignore us or reject our requests,” but some have been willing to schedule meetings, Mohammad said. “It’s exhausting but every day I remember the privilege we have here to advocate.” 

The volunteers promoting the ceasefire persevere because “the scale of the ongoing genocide in Gaza has reached a level we can’t ignore.” As a swing state in the national election, Milwaukee County’s endorsement of this resolution would “send a strong message to the Biden administration,” she said.


Sandra Whitehead

Sandra Whitehead is an educator, nationally award-winning journalist and author of Lebanese Americans, published by Marshall Cavendish. She is blessed with a loving family–her husband Abdulaziz Aleiou and three children, Ali, Aisha and Adam.





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