More Than 13,000 Protest Votes Cast Against Biden in Philadelphia Primary

Voters chose things like "uncommitted," "anyone else," and "ceasefire."

President Joe Biden's strong support for Benjamin Netanyahu's policies in the war in Gaza have led many to cast "uncommitted" write-in votes in Philadelphia

President Joe Biden’s strong support for Benjamin Netanyahu’s policies in the war in Gaza have led many to cast “uncommitted” write-in votes in Philadelphia (Getty Images)

Every time we have a primary or general election, I always delve into the Philadelphia write-in votes, which, because of the laborious way we do things around here, aren’t generally available until a month of so after you cast your ballot. I usually just look at Philadelphia’s write-in votes for fun. It’s interesting, in the nerdiest of ways, to see how many people wrote in votes for Gritty, Frank Rizzo, Mumia Abu-Jamal, or, ugh, Howard Eskin. But 2024 is a much different kind of year. Nothing fun about it.

Before we delve into the write-in votes, a brief Pennsylvania civics lesson. Pennsylvania, unlike most other states, has closed primaries. That means that if you’re a Democrat, you can’t vote for a Republican. And if you’re a Republican, you can’t vote for a Democrat. You have to pick a choice from your party’s column. Well, unless you cast a write-in vote.

On Thursday morning, the office of the Philadelphia City Commissioners finally released all of the Philadelphia write-in votes from April’s primary.

Keep in mind this is amid the national campaign to get voters to write in “uncommitted.” This vote is meant to signal a protest of President Joe Biden’s handling of the situation in Gaza. And we now know that 13,277 Democrats wrote in “uncommitted” for president. That’s out of 169,843 total votes cast for president in the Democratic primary in Philadelphia — just under eight percent of the vote.

And there were other write-in votes that were variations of this, or just more straightforward protest votes over Gaza. Seventy-five voters wrote in “free Palestine,” 53 wrote in “cease-fire,” 29 “cease-fire now,” 24 for “Gaza” … I could go on. Then there are the 347 Philadelphia Democrats who chose to write in “undecided” as opposed to just not voting. Again, sending a message.

Also sending a message were the 28 Democrats who wrote in “anyone else.” Same with the 13 who wrote in “none of the above.” (I think a lot of us are feeling that way.) It’s also worth noting that 523 Democrats wrote in Donald Trump as their choice for president and 288 listed Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the third-party candidate who didn’t make it onto the Pennsylvania primary ballot.

On the Republican side of the primary, we saw just 14 “uncommitted” votes. Meanwhile, 96 Republican voters wrote in votes for “Joseph R. Biden Jr.,” 31 for Liz Cheney, and 29 for Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Mickey Mouse received as many Republican write-in votes for president as Chris Christie, tying at six and besting Vivek Ramaswamy by one.

With Pennsylvania considered a pivotal state in the 2024 general election in November, it’s clear the Biden campaign has a lot of work ahead to turn those “uncommitted” voters into Biden voters. Just as it has a lot of work to do across the country, where protest voting (or protesting by not voting) could change the outcome of a tight race.

Oh, and if you’re wondering about old Gritty, he received 10 votes in the Democratic primary and zero in the Republican. Proving that Republicans really just aren’t any fun.