Are you also starting to doubt Musk's claims? If you know these things, you will know the truth about EVM

Ananya Shroff
8 Min Read
Are you also starting to doubt Musk's claims? If you know these things, you will know the truth about EVM

New Delhi: Elon Musk, the founder of the world's renowned tech company Tesla, has claimed that Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) can be hacked. On this, former Union Minister of State for Information Technology (IT) Rajiv Chandrashekhar said that Musk's claim may be true for EVMs of other countries including America, but not for India. At the same time, the Election Commission of India also said that EVMs are not connected to the Internet, Bluetooth or any other communication source, so they cannot be hacked. On many occasions, the Election Commission also challenged the political parties raising fingers on EVMs to prove their allegations. But the political parties never accepted the challenge of the Election Commission. So the question is that if EVMs of developed countries can be hacked, then why not India's? Actually, the engineers and experts who make EVMs used in India say that these machines are very complex and they have been designed in such a way that they cannot be tampered with. Many new security features have been added to this model, which makes it even more secure.

Rajat Muna, director of IIT Gandhinagar and a member of the technical panel that designed the EVM, says that the EVM is like a simple calculator. According to him, 'No EVM can be hacked or tampered with.' Rajat Muna believes that the debate on EVMs is mainly political; technically 'Indian EVMs cannot be hacked.'

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Indian EVMs are based on the best M3 model

Compared to the previous model, the M3 model is smarter and many tasks are done automatically in it. For example, when the computer is turned on, some checks are done automatically, similarly the initial checks are done automatically in the M3M EVM. Experts say that 'if someone tries to tamper with the EVM, then there is a technology inside it which brings it back to the factory setting and the machine stops working.' These machines are neither connected to the internet nor do they have RF (radio frequency) to connect via Bluetooth. Even these machines are not connected to the electric socket.

M3 machines were first used in 2019. These machines will be used in the upcoming elections in many states. Their life is 15 years, after which they will be removed and new version machines will be installed. A member of the expert panel said, 'We are thinking of using new technology in M4 machines.'

Elon Musk's claim and the response from India

Recently, Elon Musk had said about EVMs that they should be removed because 'the risk of hacking by humans or artificial intelligence may be low, but it is still too much to ignore.' Elon Musk had written this on the social media platform X, in response to which India's former Union Minister of State Rajiv Chandrashekhar had said that this is a 'huge and wrong generalization'. Elon Musk had said this in response to a post made about EVMs in Puerto Rico.

Rajat Muna believes that most of the discussions on ways to hack EVMs are politically motivated and he does not wish to comment on it. Interestingly, in order to remain 'completely independent', no member of the EVM Technical Committee takes any fee or any honorarium for the design or technology of voting machines.

…so that all doubts about EVMs are cleared

“We knew this was the only way we could remain fully independent,” says Dinesh Sharma, emeritus professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay (IIT Bombay) and an expert in microelectronics and solid-state electronics. After every election, there are a lot of rumours about Indian EVMs and their hacking.

To dispel these rumours and remove doubts from the minds of people, Dinesh Sharma has prepared a two-hour video, which can be watched by the general public. In this video, he has explained the difference between the voting machines used in the rest of the world and the voting machines used in India. He is soon going to release another video in which the new machines and the security features present in them will be explained so that the doubts from the minds of the common people can be removed.

Our EVMs are different from the rest of the world: Experts

In his video, Dinesh Sharma says, 'Indian EVMs are different from other EVMs in the world. M3 EVMs have no connection to any other device, not even the power supply. EVMs do not talk to any other device. They are designed only for voting and are not normal computers loaded with a programme for electronic voting. Therefore, our EVMs cannot do anything else. No other program or software can be loaded in them.'

Dinesh Sharma further explains that if an EVM malfunctions, the entire machine has to be replaced. “Each EVM is like a separate electronic island in itself and this is what makes them the safest,” he says. At every stage, the EVM software is reviewed by a third party, while mock polling is conducted several times in the presence of representatives of the candidates. After these checks, the machines are sealed with 'rare' paper from the Nasik Security Printing Press, the same paper that is used to print Indian currency notes.

Whenever the machines are sealed or opened, it is done in the presence of the election candidates or their representatives. Also, when EVMs are transported and stored before polling day, the storage room has to follow stringent norms, such as having only one door. There is also a provision to allow candidates or their representatives to camp outside for 24 hours leading up to polling day, explains Dinesh Sharma.

I haven't found a single mistake yet

Following the Supreme Court order, ballot slips from 20,625 randomly selected VVPATs for general elections are counted and compared with the electronic counts from their control units. Experts say that if no difference is found in the counts of EVMs and VVPATs in such a large sample, it can be said with almost certainty that the use of EVMs does not violate the sanctity of the election process.

So far, the vote slips of 41,629 randomly selected VVPATs have been matched with the electronic counts of their control units and not a single case has been found in which a vote cast for candidate 'A' has been transferred to candidate 'B'. If any discrepancy is found in the count, it is due to human error, such as not removing the mock poll vote from the control unit or not removing the mock poll slip from the VVPAT.

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