With the door slammed shut this week on federal legislation to create new protections for access to voting, Democrats face an electoral landscape in which they will need to spend heavily to register and mobilize voters if they are to overcome the hodgepodge of new voting restrictions enacted by Republicans across the country.
Democrats rode record turnout to win the presidency and control of the Senate in 2020 after embracing policies that made it easier to vote with absentee ballots during the pandemic. But Republican-controlled state legislatures have since enacted a range of measures that undo those policies, erect new barriers to voting and remove some of the guardrails that halted former President Donald J. Trump’s drive to overturn the election.
Now, Democrats’ best chance for counteracting the new state laws is gone after Senator Kyrsten Sinema, Democrat of Arizona, declared her opposition on Thursday to President Biden’s push to lift the filibuster to pass the party’s two voting access bills.
That failure infuriated Democrats and left them contemplating a long and arduous year of organizing for the midterm elections, where they already face headwinds from Mr. Biden’s low approval ratings, inflation, congressional redistricting and the persistent pandemic.
Democratic officials and activists now say they are resigned to having to spend and organize their way around the new voting restrictions — a prospect many view with hard-earned skepticism, citing the difficulty of educating masses of voters on how to comply with the new rules.
They say it would require them to compensate by spending tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars more on voter-registration and turnout programs — funds that might otherwise have gone to promoting Democratic candidates.