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Gaza protest voting in Georgia, Washington threatens Biden’s reelection: Activists

CHICAGO: A significant number of Arab and Muslim voters turned their backs on President Joe Biden in Georgia’s and Washington State’s Democratic primary elections on Tuesday — part of a trend likely to threaten his reelection in November’s polls, according to activist organizations.

Voters chose to “not vote” or to vote “uncommitted” to protest Biden’s support for Israel’s war on Gaza, where more than 31,000 Palestinians have been killed, said the #AbandonBiden and ListentoGeorgia campaign bodies.

Voters in Washington State cast “uncommitted” ballots. But Arab and Muslim voters in Georgia could not, and were instead urged by activists to turn in blank ballot papers as a message to Biden that they do not support what they view as genocide and are calling for a ceasefire. They could also vote for other minor candidates rather than Biden.

The Georgia and Washington State protest votes, along with similar voting in Minnesota, Michigan and several other states, pose a serious threat to Biden’s reelection in November, Farah Khan, co-founder of the #AbandonBiden movement, told Arab News. 

Preliminary numbers in Georgia, where Biden won by a razor-thin margin of 11,779 votes to defeat Donald Trump in 2020, show Biden’s reelection is far from certain, she said. 

Biden “can’t redeem himself now. Come November, it’s going to be really hard for him,” Khan added. “We know he’s … feeling the pressure because he keeps making promises on Gaza and making trips to Michigan without telling the public where he plans to be, like he’s dodging the protesters.”

The protest vote was more significant in Washington State where 48,619 voters, nearly 8 percent of the total, cast “uncommitted” votes just in the Democratic primary. In 2020, Biden won Washington State over Trump by a significant 785,000 votes. 

While the #AbandonBiden vote there will not jeopardize his hold on the state, the uncommitted totals were significant and will increase in November, activists said.

If the 8 percent “uncommitted” vote holds in the general election, Biden could face a much closer fight with Trump.

https://www.axios.com/local/seattle/2024/03/13/results-washington-presidential-primary-trump-biden-uncommitted

“Clearly, Georgia had a bit more of an uphill battle than in North Carolina, which had a ‘no preference’ option to affirmatively select,” Pooyan Ordoubadi, co-chair of the North Carolina #AbandonBiden coalition, told Arab News.

“Georgia was decided by less than 12,000 votes in 2020, so even a tiny sliver of disillusioned voters would be extremely problematic for Biden.

“Over three-quarters of Democratic voters are demanding a ceasefire. The large numbers of protest votes show how many voters, across all ages and demographics, are opposed to the US-funded genocide in Gaza. Biden can’t win without us.

“We need to ask why, if the Democrats believe that a Trump presidency would mean the end of democracy, they’re willing to risk it all to support a fascist government in Israel engaged in ethnic cleansing and genocide.”

Khan said: “These numbers are telling you a pretty loud story about the challenges he (Biden) faces. The movement is just getting started.

“Once the primaries wrap up, we’re going to be working very hard to have the momentum picking up. Michigan and Georgia are very tough battlegrounds for him.”

Because there were no “uncommitted” votes to count in Georgia, activists had to calculate the differences between total registered voters versus total votes cast.

Georgia election officials estimated that only slightly more than 11-12 percent of the state’s 7.95 million registered voters requested ballots on Tuesday.

https://sos.ga.gov/election-data-hub

https://www.savannahnow.com/story/news/politics/state/2024/03/12/election-day-georgia-march-12-primary-live-updates/72937683007/

With nearly 98 percent of votes counted in Georgia by Wednesday morning, Biden received 95.19 percent, or 274,820 votes, while two minor challengers won 4.81 percent, or 13,896 votes.

Many Arab and Muslim protesters were encouraged to vote “blank ballots,” although the state election board would not confirm the total number. 

https://results.enr.clarityelections.com/GA/120015/web.317647/#/summary

Activists in the ListentoGeorgia coalition of local faith leaders and political organizations and activists said at least 6,455 Georgia voters submitted blank ballots in response to their protest calls.

Additionally, in Georgia two minor candidate rivals received what appears to be more than 14,000 anti-Biden votes. Georgia election officials did not release numbers for the blank ballots.

The total number of blank ballots returned, combined with the known opposition votes, put the anti-Biden protest at well over the 11,779 votes he received in Georgia in 2020 to defeat Trump.

Biden has not addressed questions or references to the #AbandonBiden campaign over his pro-Israel policies.

But at a rally on Tuesday in Atlanta, a protester in the audience yelled: “What are you going to do, Genocide Joe?  Tens of thousands of Palestinians …” Supporters drowned out the protester, chanting: “Four more years.”

But Biden responded: “Wait, wait, wait, wait, wait … Look, I don’t resent … his passion.  There’s a lot of Palestinians who are being unfairly victimized.”

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/speeches-remarks/2024/03/11/remarks-by-president-biden-at-a-campaign-event-atlanta-ga-march-9-2024/

But Khan said no matter how one analyzes the numbers, Biden’s razor-thin 2020 Georgia victory vanishes and jeopardizes his reelection.

“Even Washington voters are showing their disapproval of Biden. Washington voted 7.6 percent uncommitted, almost 47,000 votes — that’s a pretty clear sign,” she added.

“Based on active engagement we’re witnessing on the ground, we’ll see a lot more Arab and Muslim voters turn out in November’s election.”

 Khan said she expects the trend to continue in upcoming state primaries with large Arab and Muslim voter populations, including in Arizona, Florida, Illinois and Ohio on March 19, Wisconsin on April 2, Maryland and West Virginia on May 14, and New Jersey on June 4.

“Muslim and Arab voters are taking their allies, like the Black and Brown and larger progressive community, with them in uniting behind a message to reject genocide,” she added.

To become president, a candidate in the November presidential election must win at least 270 of the 538 Electoral College votes assigned to the 50 states and territories based on voter population. 

In 2020, Biden won 306 electoral votes while Trump received 232. If Biden loses 36 electoral votes by losing at least three states he won four years ago, he cannot win reelection. Michigan, North Carolina and Minnesota represent 41 total electoral votes.

The #AbandonBiden campaign said their protest against Biden is not an expression of support for Trump, although Trump or a third-party candidate such as Robert F. Kennedy Jr. could benefit.

If no candidate wins the minimum of 270 electoral votes in the Nov. 5 presidential election, the selection of a president could go to the US House of Representatives, according to the country’s constitution.

https://www.archives.gov/electoral-college/faq#no270

Khan said the various #AbandonBiden coalitions are expected to gather after the Democratic and Republican conventions to vet alternative candidates for endorsement, although details have not yet been finalized.

Biden’s deputy campaign manager in Georgia did not respond to an Arab News request for comment.

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