Elon Musk Flags Risk Of Poll Rigging In EVMs, BJP Leader Responds

Elon Musk's remark was in response to, Robert F Kennedy Jr, an independent hopeful for the 2024 US Elections, who flagged concerns over polls in Puerto Rico.

Elon Musk Flags Risk Of Poll Rigging In EVMs, BJP Leader Responds

India uses the third generation of EVMs, known as M3 EVMs.

New Delhi:

Tesla and SpaceX chief Elon Musk has advised against the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs), citing concerns about their potential vulnerabilities to hacking. His remarks come amidst growing debates over the security of EVMs worldwide, especially following allegations of irregularities in Puerto Rico's recent primary elections.

"We should eliminate electronic voting machines. The risk of being hacked by humans or AI, while small, is still too high," Mr Musk posted on X.

The spotlight on EVM security has intensified due to recent controversies in Puerto Rico. The primary elections there were plagued by numerous irregularities linked to EVMs. However, a paper trail allowed election officials to identify and correct vote tallies.

Mr Musk's remark was in response to, Robert F Kennedy Jr, nephew of former US President John F Kennedy and an independent hopeful for the 2024 US Elections, who wrote, "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 advocated for a return to paper ballots to prevent electronic interference in elections, ensuring that every vote is counted and elections remain secure.

While concerns over EVMs are gaining traction in the United States, the scenario in India presents a contrasting picture. India uses the third generation of 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 countered Mr Musk's statement terming it as a "huge sweeping generalisation" which holds no truth.

"This is a huge sweeping generalisation statement that implies no one can build secure digital hardware. Wrong," replied the former minister. "No connectivity, no bluetooth, wifi, 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."

"Anything can be hacked," replied Mr Musk.

A dedicated team of professors from three prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) has been instrumental in the latest upgrades of Indian EVMs. The Election Commission of India (ECI) is supported by an eminent Technical Expert Committee (TEC) on EVMs, ensuring that the devices are robust and secure.

READ | Top Experts From IIT Who Helped Design India's Most Tamper-Proof EVMs

Professor Dinesh K Sharma, a specialist in microelectronics and solid-state electronics from IIT Bombay, told NDTV, "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."

The Supreme Court this year 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 per cent cross-verification, maintaining the current practice of verifying five randomly selected EVMs per Assembly constituency.

READ | "Blindly Doubting System...": Big Supreme Court Order On VVPAT Verification

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.