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Republicans target Pennsylvania's Amish for 2020

Amish boys being pulled in a horse and buggy.
Photo: Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Republicans are seeking to widen their chances of winning Pennsylvania again by targeting the state's most conservative residents: the Amish, the Washington Post reports.

The big picture: In the 2016 presidential election, Pennsylvania's 20 electoral college votes went to President Trump by a margin of just 45,000 ballots. More than 75,000 Amish live in Pennsylvania, leading modest, heavily religious lives away from developed landscapes or politics. Less than 7% of Amish who are eligible to vote in Lancaster County, Pa., for example, are registered to do so. Republicans are hoping to change that.

  • 2 Republican operatives started Amish PAC in 2016, targeting potential voters through billboard and newspaper ads, aiming to win additional votes for Republicans in 2020.
  • Ben Walters, a co-founder of the PAC, told the Post he's heard from many Amish people coming around to the idea of voting, citing more interest in 2018 than 2016, and continued interest into the next election.
  • “Since 2016, every single year, it gets a little bit easier. We’re seeing more and more signs of progress. I think behaviors are finally changing," Walters said.

Of note: Amish don't drive cars and are not permitted by church rules to have driver's licenses, but they pass by billboards while commuting in their traditional horse-drawn buggies. Many are also willing to commute in cars so long as they are not driving.

Between the lines: While Amish people tend to side with Republican principles like disagreeing with same-sex marriage and abortion, they also, by and large, strongly believe in keeping their community and the federal government separate.

  • Amish PAC is hoping to reach Mennonite voters as well, who are less traditionalist but still deeply conservative.

By the numbers: The PAC spent almost $140,000 in 2016 and has already raised $32,000 for 2020, per their campaign finance reports.

  • In Lancaster County, where over 10% of all of America's Amish live, 1,019 members of the community voted in 2016. 15,055 were eligible.
  • At the end of the 1990s, fewer than 450 members of the community were registered voters.

Go deeper: Trump's 2020 map from hell