Rajeev Chandrasekhar counters Elon Musk’s EVM tampering remark

Musk had suggested that EVMs should be eliminated due to potential hacking risks, whether by humans or Artificial Intelligence (AI).

| Updated: 16 June, 2024 7:21 pm IST

NEW DELHI: In a recent exchange on social media, former Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar rebutted Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk’s comments regarding the security of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).

Musk had suggested that EVMs should be eliminated due to potential hacking risks, whether by humans or Artificial Intelligence (AI).

Reacting to voting discrepancies in Puerto Rico’s primary elections linked to a software issue, Musk expressed his concerns, leading to a review of the Puerto Rico Election Commission’s contract with Dominion Voting Systems. Musk’s comments implied a general risk associated with EVMs, irrespective of the geographical context.

Chandrasekhar, addressing Musk’s remarks on X (formerly Twitter), highlighted the robustness of India’s EVMs. “While your views may apply to countries like the U.S., where regular compute platforms are used to build Internet-connected voting machines, they don’t apply to India,” he stated.

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Chandrasekhar explained, “Indian EVMs are custom-designed, secure, and isolated from any network or media. No connectivity, no Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Internet. There is no way in. Factory-programmed controllers that cannot be reprogrammed.” Emphasising the integrity of India’s electoral process, he added, “EVMs can be architected and built right as India has done. We would be happy to run a tutorial, Elon.”

 

In response to Chandrasekhar, Musk maintained his stance, replying, “Anything can be hacked.”

Congress MP Rahul Gandhi also entered the debate, supporting Musk’s concerns. Gandhi criticised Indian EVMs as a “black box” with limited transparency, suggesting that the lack of scrutiny and accountability in the electoral process could render democracy vulnerable to fraud.

 

Chandrasekhar’s statements come in the backdrop of allegations during the Lok Sabha elections, where the Opposition accused the ruling BJP of EVM tampering. The Election Commission of India (ECI) has consistently denied these allegations. Chief Election Commissioner Rajeev Kumar recently reassured the public, stating that EVMs are entirely secure and tamper-proof.

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In a response to the Supreme Court of India on the eve of the 2024 Lok Sabha Elections, the ECI reiterated that tampering with EVMs is “impossible at any stage.” This statement came during a hearing over petitions seeking cross-verification of 100% EVM votes with VVPAT (Voter Verified Paper Audit Trail) paper slips.

The controversy stirred by Musk’s comments has fueled a broader discussion on the integrity of electronic voting systems worldwide. While Musk and Gandhi raise valid concerns about potential vulnerabilities, Indian officials, including Chandrasekhar and the ECI, emphasise the robust security measures in place for India’s EVMs.

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