Ms. Perales questioned Mr. Cain’s professed unfamiliarity with the toxic racial history of the “purity of the ballot box” phrase. She noted that at least two prominent civil rights organizations had submitted written testimony to Mr. Cain’s committee condemning the phrase.
(In testimony emailed to the committee in late March, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said the phrase “has deep ties to calls by white legislators in the state to ensure the ‘purity of the Anglo-Saxon race’ by, among other tactics, disenfranchising Black Texans.”)
Amid months of false claims by former President Donald J. Trump that the 2020 election was stolen from him, Republican lawmakers in many states are marching ahead to pass laws making it harder to vote and changing how elections are run, frustrating Democrats and even some election officials in their own party.
- A Key Topic: The rules and procedures of elections have become a central issue in American politics. The Brennan Center for Justice, a liberal-leaning law and justice institute at New York University, counts 361 bills in 47 states that seek to tighten voting rules. At the same time, 843 bills have been introduced with provisions to improve access to voting.
- The Basic Measures: The restrictions vary by state but can include limiting the use of ballot drop boxes, adding identification requirements for voters requesting absentee ballots, and doing away with local laws that allow automatic registration for absentee voting.
- More Extreme Measures: Some measures go beyond altering how one votes, including tweaking Electoral College and judicial election rules, clamping down on citizen-led ballot initiatives, and outlawing private donations that provide resources for administering elections.
- Pushback: This Republican effort has led Democrats in Congress to find a way to pass federal voting laws. A sweeping voting rights bill passed the House in March, but faces difficult obstacles in the Senate. Republicans have remained united against the proposal and even if the bill became law, it would likely face steep legal challenges.
- Florida: Measures here include limiting the use of drop boxes, adding more identification requirements for absentee ballots, requiring voters to request an absentee ballot for each election, limiting who could collect and drop off ballots, and further empowering partisan observers during the ballot-counting process.
- Texas: The next big move could happen here, where Republicans in the legislature are brushing aside objections from corporate titans and moving on a vast election bill that would be among the most severe in the nation. It would impose new restrictions on early voting, ban drive-through voting, threaten election officials with harsher penalties and greatly empower partisan poll watchers.
- Other States: Arizona’s Republican-controlled Legislature passed a bill that would limit the distribution of mail ballots. The bill, which includes removing voters from the state’s Permanent Early Voting List if they do not cast a ballot at least once every two years, may be only the first in a series of voting restrictions to be enacted there. Georgia Republicans in March enacted far-reaching new voting laws that limit ballot drop-boxes and make the distribution of water within certain boundaries of a polling station a misdemeanor. Iowa has also imposed new limits, including reducing the period for early voting and in-person voting hours on Election Day. And bills to restrict voting have been moving through the Republican-led Legislature in Michigan.
But Ms. Beckley said she too was unaware of the roots of the language. The day after the House debate, she recalled, Mr. Cain came to her desk and asked, “Did you know about this?”
“I’m not going to lie,” she said in an interview, “I did not know that history.”
In 2019, Mr. Cain revealed that he has Asperger’s syndrome during a speech on the House floor during Autism Awareness Month. He also injected a humorous note: “I suspect many of you are thinking to yourself, so that explains it. And yes, your assumptions are correct — that’s why I’m highly intelligent.”
He lives with his wife and five children in Deer Park, where he grew up, and serves as a captain in the Texas State Guard.
Mr. Cain’s four-year tenure in the Legislature has been somewhat of a roller coaster, at least by outside observations. As a freshmen legislator in 2017, Mr. Cain was put at the top of Texas Monthly’s “worst legislators” list, which called him “uninformed and belligerent.”
The article cited an instance when Mr. Cain debated a member of his own party, Representative John Zerwas, who is a doctor, over funding a state council that promotes palliative care. Mr. Cain repeatedly referred to the practice as a “death panel,” though when pressed by Mr. Zerwas, he was unable to further explain the practice. Eventually he conceded, “I recognize that you know about this and my apologies.”