US voting machine makers' merger nears approval-WSJ

NEW YORK, March 4 (Reuters) - The Justice Department is about to sign off on the merger of the two largest U.S. makers of voting machines, the Wall Street Journal reported on Thursday.

But the department will require the combined company to divest a key electronic voting system, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.

Privately held Election Systems & Software Inc in September agreed to buy No. 2 voting-machine manufacturer Premier Election Solutions Inc, a money-losing unit of Diebold Inc DBD.N, the Journal said.

Representatives from Election Systems & Software and Diebold could not be reached for immediate comment. A Justice department representative also was not immediately available for comment.

At a value of $5 million, the deal was too small to trigger a federal antitrust review. It has generated opposition from election officials and others concerned it would deprive voting precincts of choice and leave the country’s election system more vulnerable to failures.

After lengthy negotiations, the Justice Department and Election Systems & Software said they are near agreement on a settlement that would involve the company selling Premier’s newest voting system, Assure 1.2 -- to a competitor, most likely Hart InterCivic Inc, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter.

Reporting by Ilaina Jonas; Editing by Richard Chang