Elon Musk Flags Risk of Poll Rigging in EVMs, BJP Leader Responds

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In a recent online exchange, Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk voiced concerns about the security of electronic voting machines (EVMs), advocating for their elimination due to potential vulnerabilities to hacking. Musk’s remarks come amidst growing global debates on the reliability of EVMs, especially in light of recent controversies in Puerto Rico.

Musk’s comments were in response to Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an independent candidate for the 2024 US Presidential Elections and nephew of former US President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy Jr. had highlighted issues in Puerto Rico’s primary elections, where numerous voting irregularities were attributed to EVMs. “Puerto Rico’s primary elections just experienced hundreds of voting irregularities related to electronic voting machines, according to the Associated Press. Luckily, there was a paper trail so the problem was identified and vote tallies corrected. What happens in jurisdictions where there is no paper trail?” Kennedy Jr. wrote.

In his post on X, Musk emphasized, “We should eliminate electronic voting machines. The risk of being hacked by humans or AI, while small, is still too high.”

The Indian Context

While concerns over EVM security gain traction in the United States, the scenario in India contrasts sharply. India employs third-generation EVMs, known as M3 EVMs, which are designed to be tamper-proof. These machines enter a ‘Safety Mode’ and become inoperable if any tampering attempts are detected.

Former Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar responded to Musk’s remarks, calling them a “huge sweeping generalization” devoid of truth. “This statement implies no one can build secure digital hardware. Wrong,” Chandrasekhar asserted. “No connectivity, no Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Internet; there is no way in. Factory-programmed controllers that cannot be reprogrammed. Electronic voting machines can be architected and built right as India has done. We would be happy to run a tutorial, Elon.”

Indian EVM Security Measures

India’s EVMs have undergone rigorous upgrades and security enhancements, guided by a dedicated team of professors from prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) and overseen by the Election Commission of India’s (ECI) Technical Expert Committee (TEC). Professor Dinesh K Sharma from IIT Bombay, a specialist in microelectronics and solid-state electronics, emphasized the uniqueness of Indian EVMs. “Indian EVMs are different from other EVMs in the world. The M3 EVMs have no connection to any other device, not even mains power supply,” he told NDTV.

The Supreme Court of India recently addressed the issue of cross-verification of votes cast on EVMs through paper slips generated by Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines. A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Dipankar Datta rejected petitions seeking 100 percent cross-verification, maintaining the current practice of verifying five randomly selected EVMs per Assembly constituency.

However, the court issued two directives to the Election Commission. Firstly, after symbols are loaded into an EVM, the symbol loading unit must be sealed and secured in containers signed by the candidates and their representatives. Secondly, these sealed containers, along with the EVMs, should be kept in storerooms for at least 45 days after the declaration of results.

Global Perspectives on EVMs

The debate over EVM security is not confined to the US and India. Globally, countries are grappling with ensuring the integrity of their electoral processes in the face of advancing technology and potential cyber threats. While some advocate for a return to paper ballots to mitigate risks, others emphasize the need for robust, tamper-proof digital solutions.

As the conversation around EVM security continues, it is clear that maintaining the integrity of elections is a top priority for democracies worldwide. Balancing technological advancements with the need for secure and transparent electoral processes remains a critical challenge for election commissions and governments globally.

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