Spurred by Russia’s assault on the 2016 presidential election, the Election Security Act a trio of Democrats in the House last week to safeguard U.S. elections from attacks and interference by foreign entities would require the president to develop a national strategy to protect the underpinnings of democracy as well as creating a National Commission to Protect United States Democratic Institutions.

The legislation, introduced by Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-Miss., chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., chairperson of the Committee on House Administration, and Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Md., chairman of the Democracy Reform Task Force, would mandate that states use paper ballots as well as create a set of cybersecurity standard for voting systems vendors.

“The Election Security Act – a key provision of the historic H.R. 1 reform effort – will give states the resources they need to protect the integrity of our election system,” Sarbanes said in a statement.

It would provide grants to help states boost and ensure election system security and train election officials. Grants also would be aimed at conducting audits after elections to limit risk going forward.  

Six months before an election the director of national intelligence (DNI) would be required to assess election systems threats and compel both the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Election Assistance Commission to make recommendations to address any threats that are uncovered.

Officials would have to test voting systems nine months prior to an election.

“With the 2020 elections just 18 months away, we cannot afford to be complacent about the security of our elections. Nothing less than the integrity of our democracy is at stake,” Thompson said in a statement. “Despite repeated warnings from well-respected national security officials the White House has failed to lead a whole-of-government effort to keep our adversaries out of our elections, so Congress will step up.”

Thompson said lawmakers’ “top priority” would be ensuring “the full range of capabilities from across the federal government are brought to bear to support the states in the shared responsibility of election security.”

Noting that election integrity shouldn’t be a partisan pursuit, Thompson urged Republican legislators to back the bill.

“No matter your side of the aisle, our oath to the Constitution is fundamental. Federal action is needed now to protect our voting systems which are at the core of our democracy,” Lofgren said in a statement.