National: Early Voting Shines Spotlight on Consolidated Voting-Equipment Market | Chris Cumming/Wall Street Journal
Leveraged-buyout firms are playing a key role in the 2020 elections: Companies they own are counting the flood of mail-in ballots, and that isn’t sitting well with some lawmakers. Two private-equity-owned companies dominate the market for high-speed ballot scanners and other voting equipment. Lawmakers have raised questions about the lack of transparency and competition in the industry, and more broadly over the role of private-equity firms in elections. Election Systems & Software LLC and Dominion Voting Systems Corp. together produce the technology used by over three-quarters of U.S. voters, according to a coming report by researchers at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The third-largest player, Hart InterCivic, was owned by private-equity firm H.I.G. Capital from 2011 to this April, when it was quietly sold, according to H.I.G. Private-equity firms “have taken over nearly all of the nation’s election technology—and how they do business is clouded in secrecy,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) said in an email. Lawmakers including Sens. Warren and Amy Klobuchar (D., Minn.) in December wrote that the private-equity-backed voting companies’ lack of transparency threatens the integrity of elections. Under private-equity ownership, the voting-machine market has consolidated through mergers. In a little over a decade, at least eight major vendors have consolidated to three, which control about 92% of the market, Wharton researchers said in 2017.