I was surprised to learn from both my mother and father that both sets of my grandparents voted, and viewed it as their civic duty to do so. My mother's parents were strict Old-Order Amish in Geauga County, Ohio, and my father's parents, from Holmes County, Ohio, were also Old Order. I find that my Amish relatives really don't feel comfortable talking about voting. Typically Amish do not vote unless there is a local issue that will impact their lives. In Holmes County, the Amish are major land holders. They are a people group who educate their children only through the eighth grade. For this reason, many Amish will register and vote against levies that would increase taxes for such things as higher education. Amish participation in the political process is often guarded and minimal.
In 1946 a devastating event in Holmes County polarized the Amish community, which led to their voting several townships "dry." For those not familiar with the term "dry", it's a reference to a township that does not permit the sale of alcoholic beverages.
|Once was Old Time Tavern|
The tragedy began Saturday night, March 9, 1946, when three Amish boys were killed by carbon monoxide poisoning as they slept in their 1936 Ford after it became mired in a muddy ditch on County Road 235. A fourth boy, Emanuel Schlabach, survived because he was near a window that was cracked open. They had attempted to free the car, but were unable to, so decided to sleep in the vehicle until morning. The car was missing a muffler and fumes filtered into the car until it ran out of gas. As was typical at that time, the boys enjoyed a time of merriment at the Old Time Tavern in Winesburg, then traveled back to Mt. Hope, where they dropped off John "Hans" Yoder, who asked to be dropped off at his home.
|Amish Horse and Buggy|
My father, Levi A. Miller, recalls the day. Driving his horse and buggy, he rode past the stuck car on Saturday night, not realizing that his friends were in danger. At that time CR 235 was not graveled. It was the spring of the year and very muddy. Many Amish buggies passed by on the way to church on Sunday morning, but did not notice the boys inside the car. It was not until Sunday afternoon that someone made the gruesome discovery. It was the loss of these three boys that prompted the Amish to present petitions to vote Salt Creek, Plain, Mechanic, Berlin, and Walnut Creek Townships "Dry". This vote had several components and prohibits, to this day, the sale of beer, wine, whiskey and the establishment of a state liquor store in all of these townships. The hotel/bar in Mt. Hope folded. It is the solidarity of the Amish vote that has, to this day, changed the face of the Holmes County Amish culture.
In 2004 there was an ambitious campaign in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania to gain Amish support for the re-election of George W. Bush. During this race, President Bush visited Lancaster County and great numbers of Amish people lined the roadside to wave as the president passed. Some people did not get too concerned about the interest in the president, after all, a presidential visit was unusual. An aggressive drive was made at a local fire station to register as many Amish as possible. Free transportation to the polls was offered. At the fire station, where Amish were registering, was a life-size image of President Bush. While many Amish registered and voted, others were guarded and wary. The Amish appreciate the protections offered by our government; i.e., freedom of worship and military exemption. Many cite arguments stating that God's authority supercedes that of the government and that they should refrain from participation. For many, participation in politics is minimal.
|Miller's Buggy Shop Mt. Hope|
This 2016 presidential race again is focused to drawing in the Amish and Mennonite vote in both Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and Holmes County, Ohio. Conservative Republicans are organizing a new Amish PAC in support of Donald Trump. Check out this interesting Lancaster, Pennsylvania news article regarding our current race. I don't know of any instance where the Old-Order Amish churches have pronounced an edict against voting. I believe it's a personal decision; kind of "Don't ask, don't tell" and the preacher probably won't say anything if a member votes, and in the above detailed historic experience, probably most ministers "silently" approved and voted.
Quoting, from "A Taste of the Backroads" book by LaVonne DuBois, "Voting is not common in political elections. Interest in politics extends to the local township trustees who maintain the back roads. County commissioners have to approve the location of the cemeteries in order to allow for proper drainage. Voting on the local issues promotes more interest than the Federal elections. Example: Library's book mobiles and issues that pertain to them within local jurisdiction. Very few Amish women vote. They seldom (if never) hold political office."
It is my opinion that if the Amish vote in 2016, they will vote for Donald Trump if he is the Republican nominee. They certainly would support the idea of the American work ethic, a balanced budget and opposition to governmental waste. The Amish do believe in helping widows, elderly, and the needy. Perhaps we should have an Amish man for President! Every last dollar would be accounted for! Grab your bonnet and hat and go vote!
Come see us at The Barn Inn Bed and Breakfast.
|The Barn Inn Bed and Breakfast|
Submitted by Loretta Coblentz
May 27, 2016