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Elon Musk’s call to eliminate EVMs ignites political firestorm in India

‘We should eliminate electronic voting machines. The risk of being hacked by humans or AI, while small, is still too high’: Musk writes on X

Elon Musk’s call to eliminate EVMs ignites political firestorm in India

SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk. Reuters file



Tribune News Service

Neeraj Mohan

New Delhi, June 16

A statement by SpaceX and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, advocating for the elimination of electronic voting machines (EVMs) due to hacking risks, has ignited a fresh controversy in India. Musk’s remarks have resonated particularly strongly with Opposition parties, who have long expressed doubts about the integrity of EVMs.

Musk’s reaction followed concerns raised by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an independent candidate in the United States presidential elections, who flagged irregularities related to the EVMs used in Puerto Rico's primary elections. "We should eliminate electronic voting machines. The risk of being hacked by humans or AI, while small, is still too high," Musk posted on the social media platform X.

Congress leader Rahul Gandhi quickly seized on Musk’s comments, echoing the sentiment and labelling Indian EVMs as a "black box."

Sharing Musk’s post on his X account, Gandhi stated, “EVMs in India are a 'black box,' and nobody is allowed to scrutinize them. Serious concerns are being raised about transparency in our electoral process. Democracy ends up becoming a sham and prone to fraud when institutions lack accountability.”

The issue gained further traction as Musk’s statement was widely circulated on social media across India. This prompted a sharp rebuttal from former Union Minister Rajeev Chandrasekhar, who dismissed Musk's comments as a "huge sweeping generalisation" with no applicability to India.

Chandrasekhar responded via X, “@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 - no connectivity, no Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, Internet. There is no way in. Factory programmed controllers that cannot be reprogrammed.”

He further jibed at Musk, saying, “Electronic voting machines can be architected and built right, as India has done. We would be happy to run a tutorial, Elon.”

Though the debate over EVMs is not new in India, it has gained renewed momentum with Musk’s comments, adding a high-profile international perspective to a long-standing domestic issue.

As the discussion continues, the integrity and transparency of India’s electoral process remain under intense scrutiny.

Senior Lawyer Prashant Bhushan, representing the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) in the Supreme Court, which had called for comprehensive cross-verification of EVM votes with VVPAT paper slips, also responded to Musk’s statement. Bhushan remarked, “Elon Musk, one of the world’s foremost technology experts, urges the world to eliminate EVMs due to the risk of manipulation. This is why most of Europe and even Bangladesh have discontinued their use.”

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