TWIN FALLS — With the U.S. possibly as politically divided as ever before, the 2020 presidential election was always going to be especially significant.
But it'll be significant for more than political reasons. The coronavirus pandemic will tack on logistical challenges to the democratic voting process. Voting itself, in the physical sense, will be different.
Chobani is one of more than a thousand companies across the U.S. that will be giving workers paid time off on Election Day so they can cast their ballots. It's part of the non-partisan Time to Vote initiative, which strives to increase voter participation.
Brandon Dansie, Chobani's senior director of human resources, said he thinks the paid half-day off — or full-day if people want to volunteer at polling places — will be impactful. He expects a large number of the roughly 1,000 Chobani employees in Twin Falls will take advantage of the opportunity.
"I think it's going to be very helpful," Dansie said. "Monumentally helpful."
The goal of increasing voter participation is important in general, Dansie said. But giving workers a wide range of time during the day on Tuesday, Nov. 3, is important for safety reasons this year.
"We expect there's going to be a lot of long lines to vote," Dansie said.
Long lines have always been a contributing factor in Americans choosing not to vote. Many people simply don't have the luxury of waiting in line for hours after getting out of work. When you add the threat of COVID-19, waiting in line is even less appealing. People might not feel comfortable standing in a group of people for hours on end, potentially exposing themselves to the disease.
Workers at Chobani's Twin Falls plant don't tend to work 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. shifts. They tend to work longer hours for fewer days, so the half-day off is even more important.
Dansie said offering the half-day is a significant move by the company. The plant will have to put production on hold.
"It's a really big deal," Dansie said. "Because for every hour that were down, then that's product that's not being made.
"We do try to be a good example to other employers and be a force for good."