For most U.S. voters, living or working far from home isn’t a barrier to voting on election day. That’s what absentee ballots are for. But what if you work someplace really far away, like say… outer space?
American astronauts get to vote just like everyone else. They just have to get that process started a whole lot earlier.
It’s all thanks to a Texas law passed in 1997, as NASA discusses in a helpful Tumblr post. (The law originates in Texas because the majority of astronauts live there, near Johnson Space Center in Houston.)
The coolest fact here: NASA calls voting from space… “space voting.” (Let’s be real, everything is inherently more awesome when you put “space” in front of it.)
The space voting process starts a full year before election day, with each astronaut selecting which local, state, and federal election in which she or he wants to cast a vote. Then, six months out, each registered voter astronaut receives a standard form absentee ballot request form.
Astronaut Shane Kimbrough was aboard the International Space Station during the 2016 presidential election. He talked about the space voting process in a radio interview with News 88.7 in Houston.
“It’s a right that we have here, and it was neat to exercise that right from such a unique vantage point and a unique place — and doing it while going 17,000 miles an hour. That’s kind of cool too,” he said.
“The local folks [in Houston] sent me an encrypted, secure email with the ballot and then I just filled it out on board and sent it back down via email to the appropriate folks. And that’s how I voted.”