The biggest business in voting machine industry is busted

ES&S, the largest voting machine company in the business, uses lawsuits to maintain a vice grip on an industry that’s allergic to innovation.

November 1, 2019

It’s election season. You know what that means: thousands of lost votes, missing paper records, and an air of general confusion. 

Sometimes it’s hard not to wonder: “Who the hell makes these things?”

That dubious distinction belongs, primarily, to a company called ES&S, the largest voting machine company in the country. ES&S commands about 50% market share in the voting machine biz.

But, as ProPublica reports, ES&S didn’t become the biggest ballot business by accident…

ES&S strong-arms customers, rivals, and politicians alike

How, exactly? It’s not pretty:

  • It locks customers into contracts by suing them when they try to switch to other voting machine companies (like it did in Cook County, Illinois, in 2018 — the county ultimately used ES&S machines against its wishes). 
  • It donates money to politicians who prevent their jurisdictions from switching to cheaper/better options (like it did in Louisiana, where the governor kept the state in a more expensive ES&S contract at the last minute after years of receiving donations from an ES&S lobbyist).
  • It stifles competition by suing competitors (like it did this year when it sued competitors for bidding on a project in Los Angeles) and suing — or threatening to sue — activists and nonprofits who demand reform.

And, as election season starts, things don’t seem likely to get much better: 

The voting machine biz is relatively small — around $300m in annual revenue — and very niche. 

So, since it often takes more than $1m to get certified as a voting machine manufacturer — and since ES&S routinely sues competitors — innovative new businesses are unlikely to get in the biz.

Join 1.5m+ professionals getting The Hustle daily news brief

Business and tech news in 5 minutes or less

100% free, no ads or spam, unsubscribe anytime


How'd Bezos build a billion dollar empire?

In 1994, Jeff Bezos discovered a shocking stat: Internet usage grew 2,300% per year.

Data shows where markets are headed.

And that’s why we built Trends — to show you up-and-coming market opportunities about to explode. Interested?

Join us, it's free.

Look, you came to this site because you saw something cool. But here’s the deal. This site is actually a daily email that covers the important news in business, tech, and culture.

So, if you like what you’re reading, give the email a try.

If you don’t like it, unsubscribe any time. Privacy policy.