With voting rights bill dead, Democrats face costly struggle to overcome GOP restrictions

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Federal suffrage legislation would also have contained funding for election administration processes, including automatic voter registration. Without it, election officials say they will be paralyzed in training staff members and purchasing necessary equipment, running the risk of disruption. Hundreds of officials from 39 states on Thursday sent a letter to Mr. Biden asking for $5 billion to buy and fortify election infrastructure for the next decade. The letter was organized by a group largely funded by Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook.

Despite this need, at least 12 states have passed laws preventing nongovernmental groups from funding election administration — a far-reaching legislative response to false right-wing suspicions that $350 million donated for that purpose by another linked organization to Mr. Zuckerberg were used to increase Democratic turnout. (The money mainly covered administrative expenses, including safety equipment for election officials, and was distributed to Republican and Democratic jurisdictions.)

Some Democrats and civil rights leaders say they fear the failure of Democrats in Washington to enact a federal voting law could lower turnout among black voters — the same voters the party will spend the coming months organizing.

“The right to vote is viewed by black voters as a proxy battle over black issues,” Mr. Paultre said in Florida. “The Democratic Party is going to be blamed.”

In Texas, whose March 1 primary will be the first of the midterm elections, some results of the sweeping new election law passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature last year are already clear. In populated counties such as Harris, Bexar, Williamson and Travis, up to half of absentee ballot applications have been rejected so far because voters have not complied with new requirements, such as providing a driver’s license number or a partial social security number.

In Harris County — the largest in the state, which includes Houston — about 16% of ballot applications were rejected due to the new rules, a sevenfold increase from 2018, according to Isabel Longoria, a Democrat who is the County Elections Administrator. About one in 10 applications failed to meet the new identification requirements, she said.

In Travis County, home to Austin, about half of the applications received were denied due to the new rules, officials said. “We are now seeing the real effect of the law, and, ladies and gentlemen, it is voter suppression,” said Dana DeBeauvoir, a Democrat who oversees elections there as county clerk.

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