Voting Machine Maker Ordered To Sell Some Assets

The Justice Department is requiring the nation's largest voting machine company to sell off assets it acquired when it purchased its main competitor. The federal government and nine state attorneys general have filed a lawsuit saying the combination last September of Election Systems & Software and its biggest competitor harms competition.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Now let's report on voting in this country. The Justice Department is concerned about one company dominating the voting machine industry. The largest company in that industry swallowed its main competitor, which used to be part of Diebold. Government lawyers say the buyer has to restore that competitor to independence.

NPR's Pam Fessler reports.

PAM FESSLER: The merger last year was between Election Systems and Software and Premier Election Solutions, a Diebold subsidiary. It raised big concerns with vote advocates and election officials. They worried that it would put too much power in the hands of one company, because ES&S would own more than 70 percent of the nation's voting machines.

The Justice Department apparently agreed, and yesterday, along with nine state attorneys general, filed a lawsuit in federal court, saying that the merger substantially reduced competition. Justice also announced a proposed settlement that would require ES&S to sell off the assets it acquired in the merger. The settlement still needs court approval, but ES&S says it's cooperating fully.

Candice Hoke, a law professor at Cleveland State University, has been working with a coalition of voting rights groups. She says there are still concerns that ES&S will be in a position to win most of the service contracts for equipment being used around the country in the upcoming elections.

Professor CANDICE HOKE (Cleveland State University): I'm very pleased to hear that Justice is significantly concerned about the issues that have been raised. And the matter isn't over yet.

FESSLER: She says voter advocates will be meeting today with Justice Department lawyers to discuss whether more needs to be done.

Pam Fessler, NPR News, Washington.

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