Florida: Groups and Election Officials Warn Department of Justice that Voting Machine Vendor Merger will Inflate Costs to Taxpayers, Threaten Election Accuracy and National Security

Experts propose remedies to prevent U.S. monopoly of Voting Equipment and Election Services

In a letter to Attorney General Holder, election administrators, computer experts and fair election advocates warned that last year’s merger of the largest and second largest voting machine manufacturers has “broad-based detrimental public impact.”  They outlined serious threats to national security and election accuracy. The experts cautioned the merger produces greater capacity for predatory pricing and coercive contractual terms that raise costs to taxpayers and harm other commercial vendors. The letter suggests actions the Department of Justice Antitrust Division should take to correct major market injuries and fortify election and national security.

In September 2009, Election Systems and Software, Inc. (ES&S) announced it had purchased Premier Election Solutions, Inc. (formerly known as Diebold Election Systems, Inc.), consolidating over 70% of the U.S. voting system market into one private company.  In December, the Florida Attorney General announced its office was investigating the merger over concerns it constituted anti-competitive behavior that may seriously harm consumers. In their letter, experts cite a record of anti-competitive market practices by ES&S that include contract clauses which prohibit ES&S governmental customers from hiring other vendors to service, program or administer ES&S voting equipment and predatory pricing of goods and services to drive other vendors out of business. They claim taxpayers and election offices have been harmed by Election Eve threats to cut off services if local governments did not accept higher prices for previously contracted Election Day services.

Because ES&S has required state and local governments who purchase its voting equipment to also buy ongoing maintenance and support services, experts argue that the merger will damage competition and cost taxpayers much higher costs.

Even more alarming, the merger consolidates 70% of the nation’s votes in the hands of one private company with control over proprietary and highly technical electronic equipment. It consolidates critical election administration services that include Election Day technical support, ballot design and printing, voting machine programming, maintenance and testing.

The letter strongly warns of profound risks to national security when one vendor controls the programming and maintenance of the election equipment in a 70% majority of election jurisdictions or entire states. Centralization of voting system programming and maintenance increases the possibility of widespread election failure, the experts warn, which could have the potential to de-stabilize the Nation and could present a threat to U.S. national security.

The letter outlines the remedies and specific actions within the purview of the DOJ Antitrust Division that would restrict ES&S’s ability to engage in anti-competitive conduct and introduce competition into the voting system markets.

The letter can be viewed here.

One response to “Groups and Election Officials Warn Department of Justice that Voting Machine Vendor Merger will Inflate Costs to Taxpayers, Threaten Election Accuracy and National Security”

  1. Paul Johnson says:

    We are not talking about rocket science here. The hardware to simply count votes should be less complicated than a calculator, and not a PC that is one million times more powerful than the computer that went to the moon. It should not be reprogrammable, or even have a clock, so that the votes can’t be tampered with software that can erase itself after an election. And we should not be paying thousands of dollars for it either. It should be possible to design a voting machine to do the job safely and securely for under $200 per unit.