WASHINGTON -- Frustrated with the historic number of voters who chose not to participate in this year's midterm elections, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Friday announced his intention to introduce legislation that would make Election Day a national holiday to give Americans more opportunity to vote.
"In America, we should be celebrating our democracy and doing everything possible to make it easier for people to participate in the political process. Election Day should be a national holiday so that everyone has the time and opportunity to vote. While this would not be a cure-all, it would indicate a national commitment to create a more vibrant democracy," the progressive senator said in a statement.
Turnout in Tuesday's elections clocked in at a paltry 37 percent, compared to about 41 percent in 2010, according to data from the United States Elections Project. If that projection holds, it would be the lowest voter turnout since 1942.
The voters who did show up to vote largely skewed older, whiter and more male compared with other election cycles, and the results were obvious. Republicans picked up control of the Senate, gained seats in the House, won key gubernatorial posts and greatly expanded their hold on state legislatures. Younger and minority voters, on the other hand, largely stayed at home. Voters in the 18-29 age range made up only 13 percent of the electorate, compared with nearly a quarter that were seniors, who tend to support Republicans.
President Barack Obama acknowledged the matter in a press conference on Wednesday, saying, "To the two-thirds of voters who chose not to participate in the process yesterday, I hear you, too."
But the number of people who vote in midterm elections isn't the only problem according to Sanders. The Vermont independent also called typical levels of turnout in presidential elections "an international embarrassment." The number is higher in presidential years, but the U.S. still ranks behind 120 other countries in average turnout.
"We should not be satisfied with a 'democracy' in which more than 60 percent of our people don't vote and some 80 percent of young people and low-income Americans fail to vote," he added. "We can and must do better than that. While we must also focus on campaign finance reform and public funding of elections, establishing an Election Day holiday would be an important step forward."
Sanders said he would file the bill, titled ''Democracy Day Act of 2014," once Congress reconvenes next week.