In a Michigan Democratic primary featuring a limited slate of candidates, Hillary Clinton emerged victorious yesterday, winning 55 percent of votes throughout the state.
But voters in student-heavy precincts near campus overwhelmingly rejected Clinton, instead choosing the “uncommitted” option. Supporters of Barack Obama and John Edwards had urged voters who wanted to support their candidates to vote uncommitted, since their names weren’t on the ballot. 51 percent of voters in those precincts voted uncommitted, while only 30 percent chose Clinton.
The significance of the Democratic primary in Michigan was greatly diminished after the Democratic National Committee stripped the state of its Democratic delegates for moving its primary before Feb. 5.
In response, Obama and Edwards both removed their names from the primary ballot in Michigan, leaving only Clinton, Sen. Christopher Dodd, Rep. Dennis Kucinich and former Sen. Mike Gravel on the Democratic ballot.
Political science Prof. Michael Traugott said Clinton’s victory helped solidify her position as a frontrunner in the race. But Traugott said the high turnout of uncommitted votes could help Obama and Edwards if one of them ultimately earns their party’s nomination at the Democratic National Convention in August. If there are enough uncommitted votes, some delegates will be sent to the convention this summer.
With 45 percent of the votes going uncommitted, delegates could potentially vote for the other Democratic candidates.
“As long as the percentage of the uncommitted is above 15 percent, those delegates will go unpledged, which means they can make up their own minds at the convention,” he said. “It doesn’t mean they’re going to get those delegates at the convention.”
But for that to happen, the DNC would need to reinstate Michigan’s delegates.
For many students, an uncommitted vote meant support for Edwards or Obama.
LSA sophomore Travis Davis said he voted uncommitted because he supports Obama and would rather see him or Edwards win the presidency than vote for Clinton or a Republican candidate.
LSA freshman Mimi Singh said she supported Obama, a senator from Illinois, and chose to vote uncommitted as a result.
“I originally wasn’t going to vote because there were no Democratic delegates,” she said, “But then a friend stopped me and told me to vote uncommitted.”
Traugott said he thinks the high percentage of uncommitted votes showed the amount of dissatisfaction with the structure of the primary.
“I think it’s just a mild form of protest against the way the primary was organized in the state,” Traugott said. “It showed that there was a lot of support for Obama and some significant support for Edwards.”
Still, some Democratic students chose to vote in the Republican primary so their vote could translate into delegates.
LSA sophomore Spencer Chauncey said he supported Obama but voted for McCain because he agreed with his policies more than any candidate listed on either ballot.
LSA senior Kelly Bernero, chair of Students for Hillary, said she was pleased with Clinton’s victory. She said it was encouraging, considering Clinton didn’t campaign in Michigan after the delegates were taken away.
“We’re pretty happy with the results,” she said, laughing.
Bernero said she thinks the New York senator’s victory in Michigan will sway any uncommitted delegates to vote for Clinton at the Democratic convention, even though the uncommitted vote beat Clinton by 2 percent in Washtenaw County.
“The reality is, in the end they’ll be for Hillary,” she said.
LSA sophomore Tom Duvall, chair of Students for Obama, said it was great to hear that the uncommitted vote had strong support in Ann Arbor.
“I think it’s really a testament to our hard work,” he said. “People, especially students, were receptive to Senator Obama’s message.”
LSA senior Travis Radina, chair of Students for Edwards, said they plan to continue to campaign for Michigan’s delegates to be reinstated.
“We are very proud of the election results, especially those coming out of Washtenaw County, where the uncommitted option won outright,” he said in a written statement.
– Daily staff reporters Charles Gregg-Geist, Lindy Stevens, Julie Rowe and The Associated Press contributed to this report.