Amid Pandemic and Upheaval, New Cyber Risks to the Presidential Election

The experimenting is back, but once again it is not going well. New Jersey is a case in point.

In April, with the virus sweeping the state, officials moved quickly to expand mail-in voting. But they also decided to explore online voting by hiring Democracy Live, whose OmniBallot system was identified by Michigan and M.I.T. researchers as vulnerable to undetected hacking.

New Jersey officials made the online voting available to county clerks for municipal and school board elections last month, but did not publicize it widely for fear of inviting trouble.

“We didn’t want to put out an explanation for potential bad guys to decide that this was something they wanted to exploit,” said Alicia D’Alessandro, spokeswoman for New Jersey’s secretary of state.

The result: Just one voter used the online system. The cost to the state: $89,000, and still no real test of whether it works or not.

New Jersey will not repeat the experiment for its July primary, and has not yet decided what it will do in November, officials said. A lawsuit is attempting to block further online voting in the state, claiming it is susceptible to hackers.

Delaware, also citing the pandemic, recently announced it would make online voting available to voters who were sick or in quarantine. And West Virginia said it would allow online voting by some residents with disabilities, military personnel and overseas residents, as it has since 2018. And in emergency cases, Colorado will allow some voters to submit ballots electronically, it announced last week.

Like New Jersey, Delaware, West Virginia and Colorado have contracted with Democracy Live.

Mr. Halderman of Michigan and Michael A. Specter, a researcher at M.I.T., determined that Democracy Live’s online voting and ballot-marking systems could not withstand concerted hacking attempts, and also presented privacy concerns.

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