Chrysler gave all 55,000 of its employees the day off work on Election Day and urged them to go vote – a move that is likely to help President Barack Obama, since most employees are members of the heavily Democratic United Autoworkers union.
The automaker, which received a $6.6 billion government bailout under Obama’s presidency, has been at odds with Republican Mitt Romney after he accused the company of shipping jobs to China.
Voting has now opened in all 50 states and millions of Americans are standing in long lines to cast their ballots. Hawaii, which opened their polls at noon Eastern Time (7:00 a.m. local time), was the last to begin.
It’s impossible to tell yet what voter turnout for the pivotal presidential election will be – but throngs of Americans are already showing up. In Florida, some voters are reporting waiting in line for up to three and a half hours. Waits in other states were more than an hour before 10:00 a.m. and likely to grow only longer as the day progressed.
Thousands of voters turned out before dawn, hoping to cast their ballots before heading to work. Polls opened at 6:30 a.m. in Ohio, which is perhaps the most important state in this year’s neck-and-neck election. In Virginia and New Hampshire – two other pivotal states – voters began lining up before 6:00 a.m.
Ralph Gilles, Chrysler’s vice president for product design, announced on Twitter that the company was shutting down for the day.
“Chrysler gave its entire work force the day off to Vote Today! Let’s go! #America,” he wrote.
Mitt Romney ran an ad in Ohio last month claiming that Chrysler was planning to build its Jeep SUVs in China. The company strenuously denied those claims and Ralph Giles even tweeted: “You are full of s***!” when Donald Trump repeated Mitt Romney’s allegation.
Ralph Gilles pointed out that all UAW workers already had the day off – a perk the union has negotiated for the last 15 years. Chrysler, which is owned by Italian car company Fiat, only extended the policy to its non-union employees.
Mitt Romney and his wife Ann showed up together at their local polling station in Belmont, Massachusetts, outside Boston, to cast their ballots early Tuesday. Vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan was seen at the polls in Wisconsin with his family.