Will Amish vote in 2018? You might recall the Amish PAC which was created in 2016 to promote voting among Amish in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Lancaster Online reports that the Amish PAC has returned in 2018 to promote Amish getting to the polls for the midterm elections in November:
Two years after it aimed to “unlock the Amish vote” for Donald Trump, the Washington-based Amish PAC is relaunching its efforts just as a new study indicates it may have had little impact in 2016.
“Our nation and our way of life are still in mortal danger,” reads a fresh Amish PAC newspaper ad that urges “Plain Voters” to vote — and pray — for Republicans in the November midterms.
If they don’t, the ad says, Democrats could remove the president who the Amish helped elect, and who “has kept his promises to lower taxes, reduce over regulation and preserve our religious freedoms!”
As you may know the Amish are not especially inclined to participate in elections and are more apt to pray for leaders than to cast ballots for them. As to why Amish do not vote in great numbers, read more here.
Yet even though Amish don’t vote in general, the Amish are not monolithic in this practice and there have always been some who have voted:
“Amish church members have little interest or hope for reforming wider society,” said Steve Nolt, a senior scholar at the Young Center who also presented the study.
Still, he said there has always been a “persistent minority tradition of voting in some Amish families,” and by the late 1990s there were as many as 450 registered Amish voters in Lancaster County.
Those Amish who do register to vote do so overwhemingly as Republicans, to the tune of 90%. About 75% of Amish voters are men.
I was skeptical about the 2016 effort even though Amish had turned out in some numbers in 2004. I didn’t feel that even those Amish inclined to vote would be that enthusiastic given that Donald Trump was an unknown political quantity and didn’t seem to align with the family-values Christian persona which Bush more readily fit and which one would think would have some natural appeal for the Amish.
This is an article by Donald Kraybill and Kyle Kopko on the 2004 election which showed that efforts to get out the Amish to vote that year had some success.
Results from 2016
So did the Amish PAC make an impact in 2016? Kopko, a political science professor at Elizabethtown College, last week presented findings of research on Amish voting in the two elections.
The study compared Amish registrations and voters in Lancaster County in 2016 to the results from the 2004 election. Despite the big Amish population growth in the settlement over those 12 years, there were actually fewer registered and fewer actual Amish voters in 2016 than in 2004:
In fact, their research found that despite a nearly 50 percent increase in eligible voting-age Amish compared to 2004 — the previous time there was a major effort to get them to the polls — there were fewer numbers of Amish who both registered and turned out in 2016.
Out of 15,055 eligible Amish voters in Lancaster County, just 2,052 were registered and 1,019 turned out to vote on Election Day 2016, the study found.
That’s down from 10,350 eligible voters, 2,134 registered and 1,342 who turned out for President George W. Bush’s re-election.
This outcome aligns with what I heard at the time in Lancaster County as to Amish voting enthusiasm.
As Kopko notes, it’s hard to quantify exactly what impact the PAC had in 2016, though it probably wasn’t a negative one:
“Amish PAC certainly didn’t hurt, let’s put it that way,” Elizabethtown College political science professor Kyle Kopko said during a presentation of the study’s findings this week. “But if they had not been involved … maybe members of the community would’ve been so put off by something that Donald Trump said that they might not have gone to the polls. We don’t know. That’s the big question we just can’t answer.”
Will Amish vote in 2018?
In 2016 the Amish PAC spent $140,000 on various ads targeted to the Plain communities in Holmes County, Ohio and Lancaster County. This time around they’ve spent about $50,000.
To reach the Amish this time around, the group has taken out ads in Lancaster Farming magazine and are putting up billboards in Lancaster County.
Will the efforts this time have an impact? Ben King, who was raised Amish in the area and is driving the local efforts to get Amish voting, responded to the findings of the study showing poor results last time around. His ambitions seem to be aligned more with the long game, than on the impact in any individual election:
“I’m not really discouraged by it,” King said of the Elizabethtown College findings. “It will be something that will have to be continued, an ongoing process of changing the culture and the mindsets.”
Hat tip to Ed for alerting me to this report.