Amish, voting, and photo IDs

Will 2012 be the year of the disenfranchised Amish voter?

Yesterday, Cleveland station WKYC ran a story about Amish potentially not voting due to a proposed Ohio law requiring photo IDs.

I suspect the (already) growing hype over the upcoming presidential elections has something to do with this.  Despite the tone of the accompanying video (see below), I tend to think it more wishful media thinking than an issue keeping Amish up at night.

Amish vote in small numbers.  Scholars like Donald Kraybill as well as Charles Hurst and David McConnell have examined Amish voting patterns.  I shared a few of their conclusions here: Do Amish vote?

Amish voting tends to happen more often in local elections.   Some Amish vote in national elections as well.  The last presidential election apparently saw dampened enthusiasm among those Amish that do vote, at least in Lancaster County.

Geauga County Amishman Freeman Miller is interviewed in the clip below.  The way that things are portrayed (“the Amish cherish their right to vote”), the Amish sound like a crucial voting bloc chomping at the bit to get to the polls.

I’m not so sure that is the case (although every vote counts as the truism goes, especially in a close election–one reason George W. Bush campaigned in Amish Ohio and PA in 2004;  see also Donald Kraybill and Kyle Kopko’s article Bush Fever: Amish and Old Order Mennonites in the 2004 Presidential Election).  Amish “two kingdoms” beliefs tend to dampen enthusiasm for participating in worldly institutions like politics.

You might recall the Amish photo ID and guns issue from a few weeks back.  I wonder if this story might have also taken some inspiration from that one.  Of the two, my feeling is that you’re going to get a much bigger rise out of Amish on the hunting issue than on the voting one.

Still, an interesting interview and another example of the Amish going “on camera”.

As the news anchor notes at the end, Amish who agree to be filmed by their studio “get a lot of flack from their friends and family”.  So Freeman must feel pretty strongly about the issue, even if most of his brethren probably do not. (video removed)

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    1. Robert Gschwind

      Thank the Lord that there are some English with common sence and respect!

    2. Richard

      Interesting story, I’m not aware of the rules in Pennsylvania regarding the Amish and voting, so ill need to look into that one. Mr. miller in the video sounds like he has a slight New York accent, maybe i need to clean my ears a little. With mostly low voter turn-outs in most elections, states will be needing as much voter participation as they could get. So it will be interesting how Ohio handles this, and if other states will be taking notice of it. Richard. Pennsylvania.

    3. Tom

      This story looks like the media is trying to make the situation seem more dire than it really is. It would be nice to see the full interview and see how much cutting was done by the news station.

    4. From what I have read on this issue, it seems generated by the media. I keep reading things about photo IDs such as “the Amish prohibit being photographed” which we know is simply untrue. They prefer not to be photographed, and they discourage their young people from getting too interested in having photographstaken of themselves – but it isn’t a foundational block of their theology,as some seem to think. As for voting – not a topic I have discussed much with Anabaptists – I would think that, like many farmers and small business owners, the Amish find that neither party much represents their needs and interests.

    5. Damon Hickey

      There’s a fine irony here. The laws requiring photo IDs were pushed almost entirely by Republicans, despite the absence of evidence of widespread election fraud. It was presented as a “good government” issue, but many Democrats suspected that the real reason was to discourage voting by poorer people who would be less likely to have IDs or driver’s licenses and who tend to vote Democratic. But it may end up keeping the Amish, who tend to vote Republican (when they vote), from going to the polls. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Republican-controlled Ohio General Assembly passed a religious exemption

      1. Debbie

        It's not about "poor people"

        ? Poor people have IDs. It has to do with people who are in this country illegally & are not citizens. Non Americans should not be voting in American elections.

    6. Mona

      Very interesting……..instead of worrying about the Amish having their picture taken, worry about Obama still hasn’t presented “HIS” birth certficate !!!!!!! Before he can even run again, that needs to be done…….
      I just hope people wake up for the next election…..especially the SENIORS whom has not received a C.O.L.A. increase since Obama has been in office !!!!!Just what does that tell you?????Personally speaking, I do not see anything he has done for me !!!!

    7. Lindsay

      Wow…just wow Mona. I just don’t think this needs to be turned into a political blog, no matter how strongly you feel about something. It’s about Amish y’know 😉

    8. Marilyn in New York

      I have never gone to vote where they asked me to prove who I was. Yes, I grew up in this town and everyone knows about everyone, but still. Even in the years I lived in Florida, they never asked for anything with a picture on it. I think that people would know someone who was Amish by the way of they dress and act that they don’t need a card with their picture on it.

    9. Forest

      I wouldn’t think this would be a real issue for most Amish. While I’m sure it varies from community to community, I’d be surprized if more than 5% of Amish vote nationwide. I would guess that most conferences would prohibit voting as being too much of a connection to the world. Our (conservative Mennonite) conference prohibits voting.

      But then, they have to sell papers somehow…

    10. Chelsea

      It’s kind of surprising to see how many Amish already have a photo ID though. I work as a cashier and often ask to see an ID when a credit card is not signed and some Amish have what we might expect of them, an ID with no photo on it and it says “no photo required” in the spot where it would have gone while others have a photo on their “non-driver ID card” as is called where I am.