In an election where record numbers of Americans voted their values, the Amish were no different. But for members of the sect-who traditionally eschew politics-going to the polls marked for them a radical departure from custom. It also signified a hard choice: a candidate who supported their moral values but not their views on war; or one who might not have gone to war in Iraq but opposed Amish teaching on marriage and the sanctity of life.
"All day long there were Amish people coming in with their registration cards in their hands," said Dale High, the judge of elections for Leacock Township in Pennsylvania's Lancaster County. "Apparently the vote was so important to the Amish this year that they came in their wagons or people brought them-however they could get here."
Although Mr. High said a core group of Amish have always voted before in the township, this year on Nov. 2 many more made the trek to the polls. At times, the four-horse hitching rail could not accommodate the traffic. "We've seen a 100 percent increase in Plain voter turnout," Leacock Township GOP committeeman Bob Alexander told the Associated Press.
Voter registrations for the township nearly doubled this year, increasing from about 1,000 to 1,854. Election officials estimated that many of the new voters were Amish or Mennonite. By the end of Election Day, 1,348 people from the township had voted.
"The morality issue brought the Amish out [to vote]," Mr. High said. Although the Amish didn't see either candidate as perfect, he said, their conservative views on such issues as abortion and gay rights spurred them to support the Republican ticket.
Sam Stolztfus, a 60-year-old Amish farmer and gazebo maker from Lancaster County, told AP that the Amish hate abortion: "We're totally against it. And as far as gay issues, that's completely contrary to the Bible."
Ohio also saw an influx of Amish voters in counties such as Holmes and Wayne where they were drawn to the polls to support Issue 1, the constitutional amendment forbidding gay marriage and civil unions. In Holmes County, 76 percent of people registered voted for President George W. Bush, while 62 percent did likewise in Wayne County.
With so much riding on the outcome of the presidential race in Ohio and Pennsylvania, both candidates made numerous campaign stops earlier this year in both states. Mr. Bush has visited Pennsylvania 44 times since taking office in 2001. Mr. Kerry made 22 trips to the state after launching his campaign in 2003.
Only Mr. Bush specifically took time to court the conservative vote-and to specifically woo the Amish-during two visits to Lancaster County, where approximately 17,000 Old Order Amish reside. During his July visit, Mr. Bush met privately with several dozen Old Order Amish, learning about their traditions and explaining his own faith. His efforts paid off: 66 percent of the county voted for him while only 34 percent opted for Sen. John Kerry.
John Fisher, a member of Lancaster's Amish community, told AP that Mr. Bush's family values determined his vote: "I don't agree with war at all. But he had to do what he had to do."
Although the Amish are pacifists and many disagree with the war in Iraq, Mr. High said issues of morality galvanized Amish to register to vote and to choose Mr. Bush over Mr. Kerry: "They aren't happy about the war, but that is more tolerable than the morality issue. They were more in opposition to Kerry and the issues he stood for."