Uncommitted PA sticker along Germantown Avenue (Rasheed Ajamu)

As Northwest residents prepare to cast their votes in tomorrow’s primary election, some will mark their presidential ballots ‘uncommitted,’ expressing calls for a ceasefire in the Israeli-Hamas war, which has already taken more than 34,000 Palestinian lives, in addition to about 1,100 killed in Israel.

On March 25, a coalition of Pennsylvania organizations known as Uncommitted PA shared a press release highlighting their motives to stand uncommitted in this election, following the lead of the Michigan campaign, which received 100,000 votes and secured two of the 117 Democratic delegates.

A poll revealed that 58% of Americans disapprove of President Biden’s handling of the war. Knowing Biden narrowly won Pa. in 2020, these uncommitted voters strategically seek to use their ballots to demand that he align with the majority for a ceasefire.

Their website sums up their message: to “let President Biden know that Pennsylvania stands against genocide.”

The coalition uses this act of solidarity as a call for four things:

  1. An immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza
  2. An end to the siege of Gaza
  3. Reinstate humanitarian aid and UNRWA funding
  4. End U.S. aid to Israel

Some Northwest Philadelphia residents have also committed to standing ‘uncommitted’ in tomorrow’s election. The Germantown Info Hub asked Germantown residents in a private local Facebook group whether they would be writing in” uncommitted,” leading to a 95 comment total to date.  The overwhelming majority said yes. 

“Uncommitted, to me, is a way of primarily telling Biden that his policies [around the Israeli-Palestanian war] are extremely misguided and he could lose the [general] election if he doesn’t straighten up more,” says Germantown neighbor Robyn Tevah.

Tevah, a Jewish senior,  said she believes any possible progress on President Biden’s end subsided after the recent Iranian 300 drone attack, in which President Biden aided Israeli forces in intercepting.

Robyn Tevah tabling to inform neighbors about Uncommitted PA in front of Takka Grill. (Robyn Tevah)

More events, including a three-drone takedown in Iran, have emerged since Friday morning on April 19.

Germantown neighbor Afroza Hossain also stands uncommitted. She says, “I want the [Democratic National Committee] to understand that we will not be complicit in their homicidal settler-colonial project.”​​ 

She says to secure her vote in the November election, President Biden must make “a commitment to a permanent ceasefire in the occupied Palestinian territories and members of the Democratic Party in Congress pledging to no longer be loyal to foreign nations that do not serve the American taxpayers.”

Roxborough resident Rosemary Barbara is also uncommitted and says that while some may say voting on one issue is nonsensical since Trump would be at least as strong a supporter of Israel as Biden, “genocide is a pretty big thing.” 

She elaborates on her stance: “Saying you don’t back Israel but sending them [$26 billion] in arms is not helping anything. It’s disgusting to me that my tax dollars go towards that.”

Germantown resident and college student Teora Milson also stands uncommitted and says she would like to see “a strong anti-Israel stance from Biden, a call for a ceasefire, and an immediate stop to funds and weaponry being sent to Israel” before November.

Each of these folks is on the same page about where they stand tomorrow, but it seems each voter has a different stance on how and if they’ll cast their vote in the general election.

Hossain says she will vote for Jill Stein, who is trying to get on the ballot as a Green Party candidate in the upcoming election, if her needs are unmet.

In addition to casting “uncommitted” ballots, these voters are united in not wanting to see Donald Trump reascend to the seat that he left in January 2021. 

In a primarily two-party-dominated election system, Democrats have often appealed to the sense that Democratic voters should vote for the Democratic candidate to prevent the Republican choice from succeeding, even if they don’t support the views of the presented candidate. This phenomenon is known as the “lesser of two evils.” Hossain, for one, rejects this notion, calling it “reductive.” 

She says, “[the] argument has lost all legs as we’ve watched Gazan children being murdered day after day for six months; James Baldwin wrote that the children are always ours. They are. There is nothing worse than genocide. Nothing. No amount of white liberal crocodile tears will change my moral stance on this.”

For others, like Barbara, the future remains uncertain. Overall, she feels Democratic voters must be strategic about moving toward the primary election. She says, “Honestly, I don’t know if I could vote for [Biden]. I don’t know if I’ll abstain. I don’t know what I’ll do.”

She continues: “Honestly, I don’t know how I could vote with all that death and destruction and suffering that’s going on.”

For Milson, however, if there’s no drastic change in behavior from the Biden campaign, she says she will remain uncommitted. She says for those who think this may be an irresponsible decision and vote for the Republican party, her personal values and ethics mean more.

She says, “I think that seeing a genocide and being part of a country funding the murders of thousands of women and children and supporting the people who have made the decisions to fund it is morally irresponsible.”

We also note that there were neighbors within the aforementioned Facebook group who supported Biden and ultimately thought the potential of former President Trump being elected again would be worse for the ongoing war. However, when we reached out to some for sentiments, they declined.

Germantown Info Hub contacted Uncommitted PA organizers to gain sentiments around the mixed responses from some of their mobilized voters. 

They shared: “Uncommitted PA represents a broad coalition of voters across the state. The campaign is only active for the Democratic primary on April 23rd. All 50+ endorsing organizations and involved individuals must make their own decisions regarding November. It’s up to the Biden administration to decide to stand with the majority of Americans, including over 70% of Democrats, who approve of a ceasefire in Gaza.”

Some have raised the question of whether this strategy is effective since “uncommitted” won’t appear in the counted vote. 

Uncommitted PA provides clarity to that, saying, “Even though writing-in ‘Uncommitted’ won’t show up on an individual line in election results, write-in votes will still be counted and reported with the total write-in ballots. This is why we are claiming all write-in votes above the calculated expected number of write-ins.”

Voters will take to the polls tomorrow. They are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. To find your polling place, visit atlas.phila.gov.