Biden critics push for blank ballots in New York’s Democratic primary to protest Gaza war

NEW YORK — Critics of President Biden’s support for Israel’s war in Gaza are pushing for Democratic voters to cast blank ballots in Tuesday’s otherwise snoozy primary as some Republicans plan to vote for Nikki Haley to express opposition to former President Donald Trump.

With no option to vote “undecided” or “uncommitted” under New York election rules, progressives and backers of Palestinian rights plan to cast blank ballots to express opposition to the bloody war that has been going on for close to six months and counting with no end in sight.

“We are encouraging Democratic voters to leave their ballot blank to urge President Biden to fully use his leverage to end the war in Gaza,” said Ana Maria Archila, co-director of the state’s Working Families Party. “It’s frustrating to many that he is not listening to the majority of Democratic voters.”

But the state Board of Elections says it has no plans to release totals for blank ballots Tuesday night with the normal release of primary election results, meaning it may be difficult to assess the effectiveness of the protest.

Kathleen McGrath, a spokeswoman for the Elections Board, said the primary is a battle for delegates to the two parties’ national conventions, making the blank ballots irrelevant to the count.

“Let the board’s position be clear: all votes are relevant, and we encourage all eligible voters to vote (in the) presidential primary and cast a ballot however they choose,” McGrath told the News.

Organizers of the so-called “Leave It Blank” protest say they will seek to figure out how successful their campaign was Tuesday by comparing vote tallies with totals of voters who check in at polling places.

In Connecticut, Democratic primary voters are permitted to vote for “uncommitted” delegates in the state’s primary, which is also taking place Tuesday along with votes in Wisconsin and Rhode Island.

Anti-war activists in all three states are urging voters in those states to cast votes for delegates not committed to Biden to send a message to the White House akin to the 10% or more of the primary electorate that did so in Michigan and Minnesota, states with large Arab-American or Muslim communities

On the Republican side, pundits will likely have some hard numbers to crunch Tuesday night after polls close as some GOP voters may cast ballots for Haley or Chris Christie to express opposition to Trump despite both having dropped out.

Even though all of Trump’s rivals have dropped out of the primary race, Haley and Christie will still be on the ballot along with onetime candidate Vivek Ramaswamy.

In other Republican primaries since she dropped out, Haley won a significant share of the vote, particularly in affluent urban and suburban areas that are home to many well-educated and moderate GOP voters.

Biden’s campaign has openly sought to woo Haley supporters to vote for him in November.

The protest votes in both major party primaries are being watched closely because even a small number of defectors from either party could play an outsize role in tipping what is expected to be a very close presidential election, especially in a handful of battleground states that will effectively determine the winner.