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Tuesday primaries show pro-Palestinian voters could cost Biden the election

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The states of Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, and Wisconsin all held presidential primary elections on Tuesday evening — easily won by President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump.

However, protest votes against Biden’s handling of Gaza took center stage on Tuesday. Protest votes in Wisconsin, a swing state, could turn the state red for Trump in November if Biden doesn’t do more to counter what critics are calling Israel’s genocidal military offensive against Palestinians in Gaza.

Otherwise, Wisconsin voters opposed allowing private assistance for conducting local elections, progressive candidates won local school board seats in the state; an Arkansas candidate endorsed by anti-LGBTQ+ Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R) lost her race for the state’s House of Representatives; and in Mississippi, a seemingly anti-LGBTQ+ candidate won his primary to possibly become the state’s new federal representative.

Wisconsin protest votes could defeat Biden in November

A campaign to express displeasure with Biden’s handling of the Israel-Hamas conflict has spread across the nation, affecting all four of Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential primaries.

All four states voted blue in the 2020 presidential elections. But while small numbers of protest voters in Connecticut and Rhode Island voted “uncommitted” against Biden, a significant number in Wisconsin voted “uninstructed” against him.

In Wisconsin, 8.3% of voters (48,093 votes) chose “uninstructed.” Biden won the state by 20,682 votes in 2020. The difference between those two numbers is just 231 votes, signaling that Biden could lose the state to Trump if enough protest voters continue to oppose Biden in November.

However, primary elections typically have low turnout — fewer than 5% of registered Rhode Island voters participated. So it may be more likely that undecided swing voters actually end up deciding the state’s preferred presidential candidate in November.

Protest voters in other states have said their “uncommitted” votes are neither an endorsement of Trump nor a desire to see him return to power, but rather a vote to tell Biden to “stop funding the Israeli government’s atrocities against the Palestinian people.” Jewish Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) said Biden’s Gaza policies are “a big problem in the African American community and among young voters and people of color, generally.”

Biden’s critics say the current president is squandering U.S. influence over Israel by refusing to criticize the country’s targeting of Palestinian civilians and not calling for a “just and swift” resolution to its continued military campaign, Vox writer Zack Beauchamp noted.

Trump turned the state from blue to red in 2016. But Lavora Barnes, chair of the Michigan Democratic Party, thinks protest voters will ultimately support Biden this November: “Do you want a president who has, frankly, supported a Muslim ban?”

Voter-approved laws could weaken Wisconsin’s elections

State voters approved two Republican-endorsed statewide election laws. The laws prohibit local governments from accepting private assistance and help from “non-election officials designated by law” when running elections.

“There are many individuals involved with the efficient administration of elections who are not sworn election officials — clerk staff; employees of other municipal agencies, who may help to set up polling places or send out absentee ballots; and vendors, who may be onsite to troubleshoot technological issues or transport voting equipment,” The State Democracy Research Initiative explained in a March 14 article. “If the amendment were interpreted to exclude such actors, or to prohibit other election-related activities undertaken by private volunteers, the ability of election administrators to carry out their responsibilities could be significantly impeded.”

Several bright spots for LGBTQ+ voters occurred in local races: In the blue-leaning city of Milwaukee, Democratic mayoral candidate Cavalier Johnson beat Republican David King, a conservative pastor for the seat.

In local races for the Greendale School Board (located just southeast of Milwaukee), two progressive candidates backed by teachers’ unions — Brian Bock and Kristin Settle — beat out opponent Elise Ciske and conservative incumbent Mary Grogan.

Anti-LGBTQ+ candidate in Mississippi wins U.S. House primary

Ron Eller won the Republican primary to become Mississippi’s U.S. House representative.

Eller is a pro-school voucher and anti-abortion candidate who quoted the Bible and mentioned “the race card” when asked about contemporary racism by the Mississippi Free Press. He called LGBTQ+ rights “settled law” and identity “a personal lifestyle choice” — hardly ringing endorsements for queer rights.

Eller will face Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson in November. Thompson has served as the incumbent since 1993.

Arkansas Gov. Sanders’s favorite loses state House primary

White candidate Dolly Henley defeated Black candidate Arnetta Bradford by a margin of 1,328 to 1,028 votes, respectively, in the Republican primary for the state’s House of Representatives. Anti-LGBTQ+ Sen. Sarah Huckabee Sanders endorsed Bradford. Henley will now face Libertarian Tammy Goodwin in the November general election.

Democratic runoff candidates Fred Leonard and Jessie McGruder won their primaries for U.S. House candidacies. They will face off against Republicans Tammi Bell and Robert Thorne Jr. in November. Democrats the seats in the most recent general elections.

However, Republicans have supermajority control of both chambers in the Arkansas state legislature.

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