16 Jun 2024

Elon Musk expresses reservations about use of EVMs; are Indian EVMs different from those used in other countries?

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has expressed reservations about the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) due to concerns about their susceptibility to hacking. This issue has gained prominence globally, particularly following reports of irregularities in Puerto Rico's recent primary elections.

Musk took to X to voice his opinion, stating, "We should eliminate electronic voting machines. The risk of being hacked by humans or AI, while small, is still too high."

Several irregularities linked to EVMs were reported in Puerto Rico

The security of EVMs has been called into question, particularly in light of the challenges faced during Puerto Rico's primary elections, where several irregularities linked to EVMs were reported. Fortunately, the presence of a paper trail enabled election officials to identify and rectify discrepancies in the vote counts.

Musk's comments were prompted by Robert F. Kennedy Jr., an independent candidate for the 2024 US Elections, who highlighted the voting irregularities in Puerto Rico. Kennedy Jr. emphasized the importance of a paper ballot system to safeguard elections from electronic interference and ensure the integrity of the voting process.

India employs third generation EVMs

While the concerns surrounding EVMs are mounting in the United States, the scenario in India presents a different picture. India employs the M3 EVMs, the third generation of electronic voting machines, which are designed to be tamper-proof. These machines are equipped with a 'Safety Mode' that renders them inoperable upon detecting any tampering attempts.

Security features of Indian EVMs

A team of esteemed professors from three prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) has played a pivotal role in enhancing the security features of Indian EVMs. The Election Commission of India (ECI) is assisted by a distinguished Technical Expert Committee (TEC) on EVMs to ensure the reliability and security of these devices.

Professor Dinesh K Sharma, a specialist in microelectronics and solid-state electronics from IIT Bombay, highlighted the unique characteristics of Indian EVMs. " The M3 EVMs have no connection to any other device, not even mains power supply," he  said.

SC had rejected petitions for 100 percent cross-verification

In a recent development, the Supreme Court addressed the issue of cross-verification of votes cast on EVMs using paper slips generated by Voter-Verified Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) machines. The court upheld the current practice of verifying five randomly selected EVMs per assembly constituency, rejecting petitions for 100 percent cross-verification.

However, the court issued two directives to the Election Commission. Firstly, the unit responsible for loading symbols into an EVM must be sealed and secured in containers signed by candidates and their representatives. Secondly, these sealed containers, along with the EVMs, must be stored for a minimum of 45 days following the announcement of election results.

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