Amish PAC, a first-of-its-kind political action committee, is trying. Its "Plain Voters Project" has targeted Pennsylvania's estimated 35,000 eligible Amish voters, most in Lancaster County, and a like-sized bloc in Holmes County, Ohio. Together, the two counties are home to half of the nation's 300,000 Amish people.Or it could be sheer stupidity.
"If the Amish were high-propensity voters, there wouldn't be a need for Amish PAC. But they are not," said Ben Walters, 27, who cofounded the Virginia-based group with donors to Republican Ben Carson's primary run.
Amish PAC's Lancaster outreach coordinator is Ben King, 28, co-owner of Quarry View Construction. The eldest of 12 children, he was raised Amish but left the church three years ago. In some circles, that means he is shunned, but he says he has strong contacts in the community.[my bolding]What circles would those be? You mean, Amish circles? And who would shun him? Amish?
While the Amish electorate is a minuscule portion of the 8.3 million Pennsylvanians projected to cast ballot Nov. 8, even a few thousand votes can make a difference in a close race, PAC organizers say.What do experts on Amish beliefs think?
"It may sound crazy, but an increase of Amish voter turnout . . . could spell very bad news for Hillary Clinton," King wrote in a fund-raising appeal.
With donations averaging about $200, Amish PAC says it has raised $30,000 toward a hoped-for voter-registration budget of $41,000. That "is a modest amount," Walters said. "But with it, we are able to blanket Amish country. There is no political noise out there. You are not competing with a lot of other ads."
As you might guess, Amish would not likely have driver's licenses or other photo ID. Fortunately for Amish PAC, the Pennsylvania voter ID law was struck down in 2014.
Among the authorities on Amish civic engagement are Steven Nolt, senior scholar at Elizabethtown College's Young Center for Anabaptist and Pietist Studies, and his predecessor, Donald Kraybill.
"The two places where there is at least a modest tradition of Amish voting - Pennsylvania and Ohio - are states that may be politically competitive" in November, Nolt said.
To have any impact, however, the Amish will need to surmount their natural disinclination to vote.
Their reluctance is based on a "two kingdoms" theology: the material kingdom "of this world," and the celestial kingdom of God. While respecting worldly governments, they believe the spiritual kingdom takes precedence. Many maintain the best thing to do on Election Day is pray "God's will to be done."
A presidential election is particularly knotty: As pacifists, some Amish refuse to vote for the commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
All that considered, the 2004 reelection of George Bush was extraordinary, said Kraybill, who with Elizabethtown graduate student Kyle Kopko coauthored a postmortem titled "Bush Fever."
They found that before 2004 in Lancaster County, about 800 Amish were registered to vote, and that a 2004 grassroots drive boosted registrations to about 2,100. Of those, 1,342 actually voted. That was a major Amish turnout, but just a drop in the big Pennsylvania bucket, in which Kerry beat Bush by 144,248 votes.
"I don't know if a 5 percent increase on the 2004 numbers - as I read the Amish PAC hopes - will make that much difference in Pennsylvania's overall swing-state picture," Nolt said.
Kraybill is blunter.
"This year is very different," he said. "Bush had a down-home, farm-type persona. He spoke about his faith as an evangelical. Trump is filled with hubris and is boastful. For the Amish, humility is one of the highest virtues.
Maybe what young GOP operative Ben Walters is hoping is that he will be able to leverage his expertise into producing a new reality show after the election. Coming in 2017: Plain Trump, starring Donald and Ivanka, with special guests Jr. and