The co-founder of the country’s first ever Republican Amish super Political Action Committee said there was a strong turnout of Amish and Mennonite voters in Ohio and Pennsylvania for the presidential election and the organization is already looking ahead to the Ohio Senate race in 2018.
Ben Walters, Amish PAC co-founder, said they knew Donald Trump, the president-elect, was going to win Ohio so the organization shifted its focus to Pennsylvania, where more than 500 volunteers helped register Amish and Mennonite voters and drive them to the polls on Election Day.
He said the official report on how many Amish voters registered and then followed through with voting for Trump won’t be available until the spring, but he did say that at the close of voter registration Oct. 11, the GOP had registered 10,403 Amish voters compared to the Democrats, who registered 9,961 — a difference of just 442 people, said Walters.
He said Pennsylvania is the state that put Trump over the 270 electoral college votes needed to win the election.
“Trump won by just a razor thin margin across Pennsylvania,” said Walters, who said the Amish votes helped and that he doesn’t think Trump would have won Pennsylvania “if it hadn’t been for the Amish vote.”
“Trump’s margin of victory in Pennsylvania was identical to the Amish population of Pennsylvania. Again, I’m not claiming every single Amish person voted, but without the votes of those who went to the polls that day…a recount would have been likely,” Walters said.
The Amish and Mennonites are believed to be Republican voters because their beliefs align most closely with the policies of the Republican party, according to one Mennonite farmer in Rainsboro, Ohio, who said he does not vote.
“I would probably vote Republican if I did vote because of the values of the times,” said the Rainsboro farmer in an interview this summer, who preferred not to be named in the newspaper.
The Republican’s Amish PAC Plain Voters Project’s purpose was “to beat Hillary Clinton in 2016 by turning out a deeply conservative and often forgotten block of voters” and was “specifically tailored to potential Amish and Mennonite voters,” according to the Amish PAC website.
The Amish PAC focused on advertising in areas of Ohio and Pennsylvania with large Amish and Mennonite populations.
“I think we really got the word out and we really stirred up some buzz in Amish communities in Holmes County, Ohio, as well. We really had a great presence,” Walters said in a phone interview.
According to data compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics, the Amish PAC spent $1,351 on advertising in the Holmes County Shopper and an additional $1,298 for The Budget. Both newspapers are geared toward the Amish and Mennonite communities in Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The newspaper advertisements featured a photo of Trump and bullet points that read, “Trump has never been a politician or held elected office” and “never had a glass of alcohol.”
According to its financial disclosure forms filed with the Federal Elections Commission in Oct., Amish PAC paid $9,392.14 to Lamar Outdoor Advertising for four billboards in July and August that went up in Ohio and Pennsylvania encouraging the Amish to vote for Donald Trump on Election Day.
The 500 Amish PAC volunteers went through Lancaster County, Pa. and knocked on doors to register the Amish and Mennonites to vote, held letter writing campaigns and sent mailers. To get mailing and email lists for volunteers and potential voters, the Amish PAC disclosed for the Federal Elections Commission that it disbursed $8,078 to Omega List.
Walters said the Amish PAC volunteers showed up at Amish weddings on Election Day — there were more than 10 throughout Lancaster County, Pa. that day — and drove them to the polls to vote.
“We had one guy who said that he showed up at one house and he ended up taking five people to the polls that day. It was like hitting the jackpot,” said Walters.
Walters said the Amish and Mennonites are fed up with farming and small business regulations that are affecting them and that this presidential election is just the beginning — he said the organization is looking ahead to the Ohio Senate race in 2018.
“Sherrod Brown is up for re-election,” he said. “We’ll have the Amish coming for him next.”
Reach Ashley at (740) 313-0355 or on Twitter @ashbunton.