Calling the United States' dismal voter turnout rates "an international embarrassment," independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont will introduce legislation to make Election Day a national holiday, in the hope that doing so will drive up voter participation.
Tuesday's midterm elections saw abysmally low turnout, with fewer than 37 percent of eligible voters casting ballots, compared with 41 percent in the 2010 midterms. White males and older voters accounted for a disproportionate share of this year's electorate, propelling Republicans to Senate control, an historic House majority, and big victories in key gubernatorial and statehouse races.
“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," Sanders said in a statement Friday. "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.”
While turnout in presidential years hovers around 60 percent, Sanders said that even that figure is "an international embarrassment" when stacked up against countries like Denmark, where 80 percent turnout is the norm. The senator noted that according to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, the U.S. ranks 120th in the world in average voter turnout.
Sanders plans to file the bill, the Democracy Day Act of 2014, when Congress reconvenes next week.
The progressive firebrand, who first won election to the Senate in 2006 after eight terms in the House of Representatives, is gearing up for a 2016 presidential bid. Sanders has not yet decided whether he will run as a Democrat or independent.