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Voting Machine Maker ES & S Must Sell Some Assets

Justice Dept. requiring ES&S to sell off key assets following merger with Diebold subsidiary that left firm in control of more than 70 percent of U.S. voting equipment systems.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Justice Department said Monday it will require the biggest voting machine company in the country to sell off key assets following a merger that left the firm in control of more than 70 percent of U.S. voting equipment systems.

The federal government and nine state attorneys general filed a lawsuit Monday saying the combination last September of Election Systems & Software and its biggest competitor harms competition.

Under a proposed settlement, ES&S would sell voting equipment system assets it bought from Premier Elections Solutions Inc., a subsidiary of Diebold Inc. The proposed settlement, to which both sides have agreed, must be approved by a federal judge before it becomes final.

The assets include the means to produce all versions of Premier's hardware and software that record, tabulate, transmit or report votes.

Before the merger, ES&S, headquartered in Omaha, Neb., had systems installed in 41 states and collected $149.4 million in 2008, the Justice Department said. Premier, as the second-largest voting machine company, had equipment installed in 33 states and had $88.3 million in revenue in 1988.

The proposed settlement will restore competition, provide a greater range of choices and create incentives to provide secure, accurate and reliable voting equipment systems, said Molly S. Boast, deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's antitrust division.

Under the proposed settlement, the buyer of the assets must be a company approved by the Justice Department.

The state attorneys general who joined in the lawsuit were from Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico, Tennessee and Washington.

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