Elon Musk gives his take on EVMs. Former Union Minister reacts

Musk doubles down on his stance; Rahul Gandhi joins the debate

Rajeev-Musk Rajeev Chandrasekhar with Elon Musk | X

As debates rage about the credibility of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) across India, entrepreneur and Tesla CEO Elon Musk has voiced his take on the topic.

Musk called for the elimination of EVMs in a post on X, stating the risk of them being "hacked by AI or human, while small, is still too high." His response was to a post put by Robert F Kennedy Jr, nephew of former US President John F Kennedy and an independent hopeful for the 2024 US Elections.

Kennedy 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?"

However, former Union Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar schooled Musk, calling his statement a  "huge sweeping generalisation".

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

Elon reacted to the former Union Minister's statement adding that "anything can be hacked." 

Soon, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi joined the debate, taking a dig at the ruling party. He said EVMs in India are a "black box" which nobody is allowed to scrutinise, and asserted that "serious concerns" are being raised about transparency in India's electoral process.

"Democracy ends up becoming a sham and prone to fraud when institutions lack accountability," Gandhi said and tagged a media report which claimed that a relative of Shiv Sena's candidate, who won the polls from Mumbai's north west by 48 votes, had a phone that unlocks an EVM.

India currently uses the 'M3 EVM’, manufactured since 2013. The M3 EVM also comprises a Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machine, in which a paper slip is generated as physical evidence of the vote cast. The voter can view the paper slip through a transparent panel on the machine before it falls into the bin.

Hardly any election happens in India without debates over the credibility of the EVMs. During the recently concluded Lok Sabha elections, the Supreme Court had heard a petition seeking the reinstating of ballot papers. The SC had then disagreed with the idea of a return to paper ballots, saying machines give absolutely accurate results unless human bias maligns them.

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