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Rising Concerns of a Voting Machine Monopoly

September 23, 2009

VotingMachineAs Election Systems & Software — the nation’s largest voting machine company — prepares to purchase a chief rival, many are concerned about the potential for a monopoly. If the deal between ES&S and Diebold Inc.’s voting division was approved, it would make ES&S the sole provider of voting machines in 65 of Florida’s 67 counties.

Last week, another voting company, Hart InterCivic, asked a federal court to declare the transaction an illegal monopoly. A U.S. senator also asked the Department of Justice’s antitrust division for a review.

“I am deeply concerned that local governments and taxpayers will not be getting a fair deal because too much market power will be held in too few hands,” Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., wrote in a Sept. 14 letter to the department.

Schumer and Hart InterCivic estimate ES&S would control anywhere from 68 percent to nearly 75 percent of all the voting machines in the nation.

Florida’s maverick election supervisor, Leon County’s Ion Sancho, is more worried.

“ES&S acted like a monopoly even before it decided to become a monopoly,” Sancho said, calling the purchase “deleterious to democracy.”

Sancho said the company once attempted to pressure him into signing a contract that would have forced his staff to rely on ES&S to lay out ballot designs, supply the ballot paper and print the ballots.

ES&S made the touch-screen voting machines that had a disproportionately high number of non-votes in the 2006 congressional race to replace Rep. Katherine Harris. She was the secretary of state during the 2000 elections crisis that led to the banning of punch card machines in Florida, some of which ES&S supplied.

Voting machine monopoly seen in Florida [Miami Herald]

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