Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

One in 10 Democratic primary voters in NM chose ‘Uncommitted’ instead of Joe Biden • Source New Mexico

After nearly 13,000 people voted “Uncommitted” in New Mexico’s Democratic primary election, campaign organizers expressed gratitude for being able to feel empowered and in community with each other eight months into Israel’s war on Gaza.

As a protest vote to convince President Joe Biden to stop supporting the war, as many as 12,852 registered Democrats in Tuesday’s primary chose “Uncommitted” as their preference for president, according to the unofficial results from the Secretary of State’s Office.

Uncommitted New Mexican voters accounted for 10% of all Democratic ballots cast in the primary, with Marianne Williamson getting 7% and presumptive nominee Biden winning with the remaining 84% of the statewide tally.

Vote Uncommitted New Mexico Organizer Rhi Mauldin said the Democratic Party’s base “have heard the devastated cries, we have seen the horrific violence, and we have seen our leaders ignore genocide.”

“We have now sent a message so loud that the Democratic Party cannot, and should not, ignore us,” Mauldin said.

Just 3% of Democratic voters (about 6,500 in total) chose “Uncommitted” in the presidential primary in 2020.

Organizer Sayrah Namaste said the group feels good about the results because “we were a mostly unfunded, totally grassroots, small group of volunteers.”

“It was this really beautiful, horizontal, decentralized but really well structured group,” Namaste said.

New Mexico’s primary was one of the last among the 25 states and territories where voters can fill out a ballot option other than the parties’ nominees, be counted in the actual national party results, and not get discarded.

Also on Tuesday, 40,000 people in New Jersey voted Uncommitted and more than 9,000 people in Montana voted “no preference.” South Dakota and Washington D.C. also held primaries on Tuesday but neither of those jurisdictions allow someone to pick “Uncommitted” and have their ballot counted.

Democratic Party of New Mexico spokesperson Daniel Garcia said voters “have every right” to use their vote to send a message.

“We’re not perturbed by Uncommitted voters at all. We’re happy to see New Mexicans participate in the primary and exercise their fundamental right to vote,” Garcia said Thursday.

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Now that the primary is over, DPNM leadership will be going across the state to organize Democrats who are interested in participating in the Democratic National Convention, he said.

There will be conventions at the county, congressional district and statewide levels, he said. It’s unclear at this time if these meetings will be open to the public or press.

The Uncommitted campaign did not manage to reach 15% of the statewide total, which is required for candidates to qualify for any statewide delegates at the DNC, according to the national party’s rules.

Any presidential preference which reaches 15% of the total votes in a given congressional district can also send delegates to the DNC.

A spokesperson for the Secretary of State’s Office said they do not track the presidential primary results broken down by congressional districts, though a Source New Mexico review confirmed that “Uncommitted” did not meet the 15% threshold in the three districts.

Still, a review of precinct-level data showed “Uncommitted” votes comprising a sizeable portion of Democratic vote totals all across the state, in the middle of big cities and in sprawling, rural precincts with a few dozen voters. 

In two small precincts in Eddy and Chaves counties in southeastern New Mexico, for example, 16 of 30 voters (or 53%) voted “Uncommitted.” 

In 252 precincts in 28 counties statewide, more than 15% of voters chose “Uncommitted,” according to a Source NM review. There are 2,169 precincts in the state. 

Even though the Uncommitted movement didn’t have the capacity to be on the ground in every county, there were rural parts of New Mexico where Uncommitted had support, Namaste said. She pointed to De Baca County, where Uncommitted made up 23% of the Democratic primary vote, according to the unofficial returns from the secretary of state.

‘Unconscionable that we vote for Biden anyway’

Namaste said the campaign organizers felt like they mobilized people who were not going to vote in the primary to do so, and we heard the same sentiment from multiple voters.

“So many people are not happy with the choices, and Uncommitted gave them a way to participate, to speak up, to have another strategy about how to oppose the war,” Namaste said.

Dair Obenshain, who lives in the South Valley, said their main reason for voting on Tuesday was to cast an Uncommitted vote.

“I think it’s just unconscionable that we just vote for Biden anyway, just as an alternative to Trump,” Obenshain said.

Lily Rich, a 19-year-old student researcher from Albuquerque and a registered independent, said she hadn’t heard of the Uncommitted campaign but said “that’s the option that a lot of people want: someone that’s not either of them.”

Obenshain said they heard about Uncommitted from attending protests in support of Palestinians at the University of New Mexico and from Source New Mexico‘s coverage.

“We’ve got to do something, and the Democratic Party is not standing up to do it,” Obenshain said. “There are individuals who are, but to know that our tax dollars are used in actively killing children, it’s too much.”

Organizers launch ‘Uncommitted’ primary campaign to criticize Biden’s support for Israel

No longer satisfied with ‘lesser of two evils’

Organizer Jane Yee said grassroots organizing is the key to their movement, especially how they mobilized working people, queer activists, and people of color.

“It was young people and people of color that got Biden into the White House; if he doesn’t listen to the constituency that elected him, he risks losing in November,” Yee said. “Our communities are insisting that their message of hope, morality and decolonization must be heeded; we are no longer satisfied to simply vote for the ‘lesser of two evils.’”

Garcia said the party is confident New Mexican voters will support Biden’s “record of job creation and commitment to protecting reproductive rights over convicted criminal Donald Trump” in November.

The campaign’s first public announcement was specific to point out that Biden ending his unconditional support for what Israel is doing would make a “stronger Party for victory over Trump in November.”

“We’re not trying to help get Trump elected. We know that he is pro-genocide,” Namaste said on Thursday. A Republican congressman from her home state suggested bombing Gaza with nuclear weapons in March, she added.

Garcia said the party is also confident there will be high turnout among Democrats in the general election, and that Republicans will face challenges getting out the vote. He pointed to Trump’s losses in New Mexico in 2016 and 2020.

“New Mexico Democrats are ready to do our part once again to keep him out of the White House,” he said.

Palestinian-American Uncommitted organizer Leila Salim said Palestinians aren’t giving up, so they aren’t either.

“Our campaign, our movement does not end here; we will continue to mobilize voters to fight for an end to U.S. weapons going to Israel and an end to the U.S. blocking diplomatic efforts at the United Nations and the International Criminal Court,” Salim said.

Reporter Danielle Prokop contributed reporting to this story.

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