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Can You Vote from Outer Space?

November 16, 2016

Yes, and astronaut Shane Kimbrough did just that 259 miles above Earth. Out of this world, right? (Pun very much intended.)

Millions of people mailed in their absentee ballots (or ballots that are completed before election day because these voters cannot go to a voting station on Election Day). But how does an astronaut living in outer space “mail” in his or her ballot?

In 1997, Texas legislators approved a procedure for “space voting” (or for how astronauts can vote in outer space). So what’s the procedure? Well, it takes a bit of planning — a whole year of planning actually. A year before an election, astronauts must decide which election they’d like to participate in while they’re in space. Six months later, they are given a “Voter Registration and Absentee Ballot Request — Federal Post Card Application” and fill it out listing their home address as (and we’re not kidding here) “low-Earth orbit.” The folks at mission control beam a digital ballot to the astronauts. They fill out their ballot and beam it back to mission control.

Now we’ve all heard stories about how people travel hundreds of miles to vote because they never received their absentee ballot, or those who mail them in from overseas, but we’re fairly certain that astronauts take the cake for how far someone has to “travel” in order to make his/her vote count.