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Rajeev Chandrasekhar counters Elon Musk’s criticism of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs)

Rajeev Chandrasekhar counters Elon Musk’s criticism of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs)

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Former Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar and Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk.

Former Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar and Tesla founder and CEO Elon Musk.
| Photo Credit: X@Rajeev_GoI

Former Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology Rajeev Chandrasekhar got into a brief dispute with X and Tesla, Inc. founder and CEO Elon Musk over the security of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). In a post on X, formerly Twitter, Mr. Musk had commented on the unreliability of EVMs in response to reports of irregularities in EVMs in Puerto Rico.

Mr. Chandrasekhar responded that these concerns didn’t apply to Indian voting machines, to which Mr. Musk replied, “Anything can be hacked”.

Mr. Musk was referring to a report on software issues with EVMs supplied by the American firm Dominion Voting Systems, which faced a flood of scrutiny in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential elections in the U.S. The company settled a multi-million dollar defamation suit brought by it on Fox News, whose anchors had cast doubts on its voting machines’ integrity. 

Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, had been holding primary elections for gubernatorial polls due in November. Mr. Musk had said, “We should eliminate electronic voting machines. The risk of being hacked by humans or AI, while small, is still too high.”

‘Happy to run a tutorial’

”This is a huge sweeping generalization statement that implies no one can build secure digital hardware,” Mr. Chandrasekhar responded, after the post started making the rounds in India. “Wrong. @elonmusk’s view may apply to US and other places where they use regular compute platforms to build Internet connected voting machines … but Indian EVMs are custom designed, secure and isolated from any network or media … Electronic voting machines can be architected and built right as India has done.” 

“Anything can be hacked,” Mr. Musk responded. 

Mr. Chandrasekhar then conceded that while “any level of encryption” on a computer system can be broken with sufficient power, EVM integrity was “a different type of conversation,” adding “we can agree to disagree”. 

Supreme Court on EVMs

The Supreme Court had, during the elections, refused to mandate the Election Commission of India to manually count the voter-verified paper audit trail (VVPAT) slips that were issued when voters used EVMs to cast their preference. The ECI has insisted that EVMs are secure due to administrative safeguards in their transport and implementation, as well as due to the pre-programming that is done on the machines at the factory level. 

The ECI was not immediately available for comment. 



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