Antitrust

Florida Attorney General Investigating ES&S-Premier Merger

Source: Miami Herald
http://www.miamiherald.com/news/florida/story/1385770.html

Voting-Machine Firm Merger Investigated

Florida's attorney general is investigating a voting-machine company merger that has voting-rights groups worried that the move will concentrate too much power over democracy in one private company.

BY MARC CAPUTO
Miami Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau, Dec. 16, 2009

TALLAHASSEE -- Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum is conducting an anti-trust investigation of a voting-machine company merger that would create a near-monopoly over the levers of democracy in Florida and much of the United
States.

McCollum's office has issued at least six subpoenas covering every major voting-machine company as part of a civil investigation of Election Systems & Software's $5 million acquisition of Diebold Inc.'s elections division -- a merger that would give a private company too much power over the machines used to castvotes, voting-rights groups say.

Similar Stories:

Miami Herald, 12.16.09:
•Voting machine monopoly seen in Florida

Miami Herald Op Ed, 12.17.09:
•Guard against voting-machine monopoly
"Our office engaged in this issue because anti-competitive behavior can seriously harm consumers," McCollum said in a written statement. "Competitive behavior encourages the best products be available to consumers, including technology, particularly in a market as sensitive as the voting systems market."

Under the state's 1980 anti-trust law, McCollum could persuade a court to levy fines against ES&S or prevent the company from operating in Florida. By next year, the company is expected to be the exclusive provider of voting machines and services in 65 of the 67 counties in Florida, the nation's most important swing state.
  
 
That means, under the acquisition announced Sept. 2, ES&S will provide election services to 92 percent of Florida's 11.2 million voters.

More broadly, ES&S's purchase of the competitor company gives it control of the voting machines in nearly 70 percent of the nation's precincts, according to a federal lawsuit in Delaware filed by a rival company, Hart Intercivic. The U.S. Department of Justice is conducting its own inquiry.

McCollum's investigation came to light Wednesday after eight voting rights groups sent him a letter urging him to open an inquiry -- unaware that his office had already opened its investigation Sept. 10. The first subpoena was sent out Oct. 2.
Syndicate content