Citing anti-competitive concerns, the Justice Department sued Election Systems & Software in order to force the company to divest itself of the voting machine assets it obtained from Premier Election Solutions last year. The department’s antitrust division, along with nine state attorneys general, filed the civil antitrust lawsuit (.pdf) in U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., charging that the acquisition threatened competition. The department proposed a settlement that, if accepted, would dissolve the merger and force ES&S to sell its Premier business to a buyer approved by the Justice Department. “The proposed settlement (.pdf) 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,” said Molly S. Boast, deputy assistant attorney general for the antitrust division in a statement. The nine states that joined the suit are Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Tennessee and Washington.
Last September, Premier (formerly Diebold Election Systems) announced that ES&S had purchased the company for $5 million in cash, plus 70 percent of revenue collected on existing accounts through the end of August 2009. Even before the sale, ES&S, based in Omaha, Nebraska, was the nation’s largest voting-machine maker, with machines being used in 43 states. ES&S systems were “utilized in counting approximately 50 percent of the votes in the last four major U.S. elections,” according to the company’s website. The company also created statewide voter registration systems used in California, Maryland, Missouri, Nebraska and New Mexico.