Trump Supporters Target Ohio Amish

Aug 23, 2016

Donald Trump was back in Ohio Monday night for a rally in Akron. His supporters have been trying to get out the vote around the state, including with the Amish. Ohio has about 70,000 Amish residents, and it's estimated that about a quarter of them are registered to vote.

For more on efforts to get those people to the polls, WOSU's Debbie Holmes spoke with Benjamin Walters from the Amish PAC. Click the play button below to hear their conversation

The text below is an automated translation of the above conversation, please excuse all errors and typos.  

Debbie Holmes: Supporters of presidential candidate republican Donald Trump want you get out the vote in Ohio from a group not known for participating widely in elections. They've set up an Amish PAC, a political action committee, to target the religious community.

It's estimated about 70,000 Amish live in Ohio and about 17,000 of them are registered to vote. With me to talk about the outreach to the Amish is Benjamin Walters who came up with this strategy. Thanks so much for joining me Benjamin.

Benjamin Walters: Thanks so much for having me.

DH: So you have set up an Amish PAC. Tell me the purpose behind this.

BW: The purpose behind the Amish PAC is to introduce the last group of swing-state voters who don't have any idea who Donald Trump is and really what he stands for to Donald Trump and the Republican ticket because, we feel that because of their strategic location and them being concentrated in high numbers in Ohio and Pennsylvania, the two most important battleground states. But even just a few thousand extra votes that we can lock within the Amish community could truly, actually make the margin in this upcoming presidential contest.

DH: You think it's going to be that close in Ohio then that it will just be a matter of two, three thousand votes?

BW: It's very possible. I look at what happened in Florida in 2000 where you have a state with a far larger population than Ohio coming down to just a handful of polling places.

DH: How are you going to be executing your goals what are you doing right now to try to bring the Amish out?

BW: You know there are two forms of advertising where we found to be really effective, of course TV ads aren't going to do anything for us. And Internet ads aren't going to do anything for us. And so in the age of Snapchat and Facebook and Instagram we're not we're not doing any of that. We're actually doing a very old-fashioned ad campaign with billboards and newspapers.

In some ways the newspapers in particular function kind of as a Facebook to the Amish because that's where they share all their milestones in their life their status updates if you will. And one newspaper in particular that we are in in Holmes County actually is the Holmes County Shopper and so if that's something let your listeners read on a regular basis we definitely have an ad in there.

DH: It's pretty well known that the Amish, not many of them vote right now, and their community is just very insular and they're very much old school in how they do things in their community. So how do you think you're going to get them, you know with your ads and things to change their whole lifestyle?

BW: It's going to be a slow process.

They're certainly slow to adapt to new things but that doesn't mean that they're not open to adapting to new things. And I think there's a whole lot of different variations within the Amish and Plain community. There's different churches, different districts, different bishops and they all see voting in various lights and so we're targeting the ones that are open to it. And I think Bush in 2004 proved with his outreach during his re-election campaign in 2004 that it is possible to get the Amish to come to the polls if sufficient outreach is there.

DH: What difference did he make in that 2004 election with the Amish?

BW: He came to Amish Country and he met with the bishops and he was in Lancaster numerous times. He was in Holmes County, in Berlin, multiple times. He was praying with the leaders of the Amish community and the bishops and he was hiring people onto his campaign who were formerly Amish themselves and all that kind of stuff really made a huge difference. And it's something we really haven't seen replicated since we didn't see it in 2008 or 2012.

DH: Why do you think Donald Trump is a good candidate for this community?

BW: Well, they look at Trump as somebody who has a strong work ethic. I mean they see him as a savvy businessman. They see somebody who understands the importance of less regulation on business. He as far from a politician as it gets. He's somebody who's pro innovation, pro entrepreneurship. He's never had a sip of alcohol in his life.

DH: I've been talking with Benjamin Walters who's with the Amish pack. Thanks so much for joining me.

BW: Thanks again Debbie I really appreciate it.