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DOJ: Voting Firms Can’t Merge

The nation’s two primary electronic voting machine manufacturers cannot merge their operations, the Justice Department announced on Monday.

According to a Justice Department statement, antitrust concerns will preclude Election Systems & Software from purchasing the rival business lines of its primary competitor, Premier Election Solutions Inc., a division of ATM-maker Diebold Inc.

“The proposed settlement will restore competition, provide a greater range of choices and create incentives to provide secure, accurate and reliable voting equipment systems now and in the future,” Justice Department antitrust official Molly Boast said on Monday.

Details of the settlement involving the two companies were released by the Justice Department on Monday. According to antitrust officials, ES&S would have controlled 70 percent of the United States’ electronic voting machine market, a niche industry that cropped up after the Help America Vote Act of 2002 forced local officials to upgrade their mechanized voting equipment.

The Justice Department complaint was filed by nine state attorneys general.

Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), who chairs the House Administration Subcommittee on Elections, had also criticized the proposed sale, writing to ES&S President Aldo Tesi late last year.

“The voting system industry in the United States is highly concentrated with only a few companies providing voting equipment and services to election officials,” Lofgren wrote to Tesi on Oct. 30. “ES&S and Diebold’s Premier Election Solutions are the two largest voting system companies. The acquisition of Diebold’s Premier Election Solutions by ES&S will give ES&S more than a majority of the market share and could greatly affect the ability of other companies to compete and new ones to enter the market.”