News & Politics

Five for Friday: What to know about the ‘uncommitted’ write-in push in PA

Organizations in Pennsylvania are calling for a protest vote in support of a ceasefire in Gaza.

A protester holds a Palestinian flag during the Healthcare Workers for Palestine Rally on the steps of the Pennsylvania State Capitol.

A protester holds a Palestinian flag during the Healthcare Workers for Palestine Rally on the steps of the Pennsylvania State Capitol. Paul Weaver/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Israel-Hamas war in Gaza has quickly grown into one of the world’s most contentious international conflicts following Hamas’ Oct. 7, 2023 attack in Israel, which killed roughly 1,200 people. In the months following the attack and Israel’s subsequent military campaign in Gaza, the Palestinian death toll has surpassed more than 30,000 people, according to Palestinian authorities.  

To protest the Biden administration’s continuing support of Israel during the war, organized efforts have been made to get Democratic voters to write in “uncommitted” on their presidential primary ballots. The campaign has already had a measure of success in one state, and advocates are hoping to replicate the effort in Pennsylvania’s presidential primary election next month. 

Below, City & State has your Five for Friday, breaking down the push for “uncommitted” write-in votes in Pennsylvania’s April 23 primary election.

What is Uncommitted PA?

Following similar success in states like Michigan, a group of voters and organizations have launched a push to get Pennsylvania voters to write in “uncommitted” during the state’s April 23 presidential primary in protest of the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza.

The voters and groups behind the Pennsylvania campaign are calling for “an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza,” according to a press release from Uncommitted PA. The campaign has four primary requests: an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza; an end to Israel’s siege of Gaza; the reinstatement of humanitarian aid; and United Nations Relief and Works Agency funding for Palestine refugees.

The Uncommitted PA campaign’s goal is to get more than 40,000 write-in votes for “uncommitted” in the Pennsylvania presidential primary.

Has this happened in other states?

The uncommitted write-in campaign gained national attention following its success in Michigan, which came after an organization known as Listen To Michigan staged a write-in campaign that secured more than 100,000 “uncommitted” votes during Michigan’s Democratic primary. The campaign has now expanded its operation to other states across the country, including Wisconsin, which has its Democratic presidential primary scheduled for April 2.

Who supports the ‘Uncommitted PA’ push?

Organizations on the political left have already backed the Uncommitted PA campaign, including the Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Lancaster chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America, which have all publicly backed the initiative. And in an email to supporters this week, Emgage Action National Organizing Director Mohamed Gula said Emgage Action Pennsylvania fully supports the write-in campaign.

“We cannot stand idly by as the people of Gaza endure relentless violence and deprivation,” Gula wrote in the email. “That’s why Emgage Action and coalition partners will be urging voters to write in "Uncommitted" on their ballot to signal to President Biden that we need an immediate change in U.S. policy.”

How are Democrats responding to the campaign?

The Biden campaign has acknowledged the write-in effort, telling the Pennsylvania Capital-Star in a statement that Biden “believes making your voice heard and participating in our democracy is fundamental to who we are as Americans.” The campaign went on to add: “He shares the goal for an end to the violence and a just, lasting peace in the Middle East. He’s working tirelessly to that end.” 

Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chair Sharif Street defended Biden in a statement of his own to the Capital-Star. “As a Muslim-American, I know that President Biden has my back and will fight for our community,” Street told the outlet. “While Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans threaten our way of life, President Biden has stood up to protect our reproductive rights, economic opportunity, and democracy.”

What happens next?

Pennsylvania’s Democratic presidential primary is scheduled for April 23, and while Biden is expected to dominate the voting with relative ease, the uncommitted movement could still send a strong message if Pennsylvania voters get behind the campaign.

Voters have until April 8 to register to vote in order to be able to participate in the April 23 primary election, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State. For those who want to vote by mail, applications for mail or absentee ballots must be received by county election offices by 5 p.m. on April 16, per the department.