The potential perils of electronic voting systems are bedeviling state officials as a Jan. 1 deadline approaches for complying with standards for the machines' reliability.
Across the country, officials are trying multiple methods to ensure that touch-screen voting machines can record and count votes without falling prey to software bugs, hackers, malicious insiders or other ills.
These are not theoretical problems -- in some states they have led to lost or miscounted votes.
In North Carolina, more stringent requirements -- which include placing the machines' software code in escrow for examination in case of a problem -- have led one supplier, Diebold Inc., to say it will withdraw from the state, where about 20 counties use Diebold voting machines.
A different type of showdown is brewing in California, where Secretary of State Bruce McPherson says he might force makers of the machines to prove their systems can withstand attacks from a hacker. One such test on a Diebold system -- Diebold machines were blamed for voting disruptions in a 2004 California primary -- is planned.
The state has been negotiating details with Harri Hursti, a security expert from Finland who uncovered severe flaws in a Diebold system used in Leon County, Fla. (He demonstrated how vote results could be changed, then made screens flash "Are we having fun yet?")
The simple fact that Diebold withdraws from a state that wants to place its code in escrow reveal its total unreliability. And the simple fact of our high tolerance for voting unreliability exposes American democracy as a sham. And, finally, given the evidently flimsy foundation of American democracy, all the White House rhetoric about spreading democracy around the world amounts to nothing but a lethal pack of lies.