Following suit with states across the country, a coalition of over 20 activist groups have formed Uncommitted Oregon, a campaign pushing for a permanent cease-fire in Gaza by calling on Democrats to write in “uncommitted” in the next primary election, rather than casting a vote for President Biden.

The campaign echoes efforts in multiple states. Michigan’s Democratic primary saw more than 100,000 voters cast their ballot for “uncommitted” as a form of protest against President Biden’s policy in Gaza where more than 33,000 people have been killed. In North Carolina, “uncommitted” garnered 13 percent of the vote. On Super Tuesday, the same protest vote drew a whopping 19 percent in Minnesota.

But in Oregon’s May primary, state elections officials say the effort may not have the same impact. Democrats who forgo a vote for Biden will need to write in “uncommitted,” but the write-in vote is unlikely to show up in overall results.

The Secretary of State’s office says the write-in vote would need to surpass votes for Biden to be reflected in election tallies. 

“Unless a write-in candidate receives more votes than the top vote getter, those write-ins are not individually tallied,” says Laura Kerns, communications director for the Secretary of State's office.

Kerns says the ballots will still be counted for other races, but the state is “unlikely to separately report how many of those [write-in] votes were cast,” because while state statutes define how to tally votes for write-in candidates, they don’t allow elections officials to count votes for “uncommitted” or “no candidate” instead of a name.

Elsewhere, the protest votes are sending a message, particularly in swing states.

On April 2, the campaign drew 48,162 votes for “uninstructed” in Wisconsin where Biden only won by about 20,000 votes in the 2020 general election. 

Maxine Fookson, an organizer with the Portland chapter of Healthcare Workers for Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace Action, says voters are fed up with Biden. 

“[Biden] has the power, as we all know, of really more than anybody in the world, the ability to stop what's happening, what Israel is committing in this assault,” Fookson says. “Our reason for doing this campaign is to say to Biden, ‘You have to earn our votes. You have to be the moral leader that we're looking for.’”

In a press release, Uncommitted Oregon claims that Biden is failing to represent the majority of Democrats. The group cites a poll from The Economist/YouGov in January 2024 that indicated 50 percent of Biden’s voters in 2020 believe Israel is committing a genocide, as well as a December 2023 poll from Data For Progress showing that 76 percent of Democrats support a permanent cease-fire in Gaza. 

For Yasmine Barghouty, a member of the American Palestinian Council, Biden's actions and enabling of Israel's unrelenting attacks feels like Biden has harmed her community. She calls the crisis in Gaza a second Nakba, or catastrophe. 

“As a Palestinian, we are not okay,” Barghouty says. “To see a second Nakba happening and slaughter, and the fact that my mom's family literally had to flee for their lives, and witnessing this all over again, and knowing that this is continuing to happen, and knowing that, in essence, so many of us are helpless, has not made the last six months easy.”

Barghouty says she and many in her family can’t enjoy food anymore while they know a famine is happening to their people. 

“There's a lot of guilt, just guilt every day,” Barghouty says. “I can sleep safely. I have heat. I have water. I have electricity. I have food. I can move freely without a checkpoint. I can move freely without getting sniped. These are the thoughts that we have daily.”

The “uncommitted” campaigns across the country have revealed a potential divide in the Democratic party, raising concerns about Biden losing votes from young, progressive, Arab and Muslim voters. 

When asked about the campaign, the Multnomah County Democrats say people have a right to political protest, pointing to a cease-fire resolution they passed in January. They also don’t want people sitting out the general election.

“Our goal is to make sure that in the upcoming elections, people vote for Democrats up and down their whole ballot,” Salomé Chimuku, chair of the Multnomah County Democrats, says. “We will knock on doors, do voter education on our new voting method in Multnomah and in Portland, have conversations, and host events to make sure people do not sit this election out.”

Uncommitted Oregon notes this campaign is specifically for the primary in May, not the general election in November. However, they still believe using votes in this way is a powerful form of protest.

“What could be more important and more sacred than our vote?” Fookson says. “And I feel like it's a moral vote in May. It really is a moral act that we're saying ‘we are witnessing atrocities, plausibly genocide by the highest court in the world. And this is our vote. This is our demand. It has to stop now.’”