Astronauts to Vote From Space Station

While most Americans will flock to the polls Tuesday to cast their vote for the next U.S. president, two U.S. citizens will beam their ballots down from the International Space Station as they fly 220 miles (354 km) above Earth.

Like all U.S. spaceflyers since 1997, NASA astronauts Michael Fincke and Gregory Chamitoff can vote in their local and national elections thanks to a handy Texas state law that ensures their ballots can be counted, even from space.

“So I’m going to exercise my privilege as a citizen and actually vote from space on Election Day,” Fincke, the space station’s Expedition 18 commander, told before he left Earth. “I think the candidates this year are exciting in and of themselves. But hopefully we get people to realize what a privilege it is, and they exercise and get a chance to vote.”

Only four Americans in NASA’s 50-year history have voted from space, largely because the Texas law allowing was passed just 11 years ago, said Nicole Cloutier-Lemasters, a spokesperson with NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. And just one of those four, now-retired spaceflyer Leroy Chiao, voted during a presidential election in 2004 while commanding the space station’s Expedition 10 crew.

How does it work?

The process of voting from space actually begins on the ground. According to the 1997 bill, astronauts in space can cast an absentee ballot from their spacecraft with the help of the County Clerk of Harris and Brazoria counties, which contain Houston and its surrounding area.

The County Clerk’s office prepares a secure electronic ballot that is then relayed to the International Space Station via NASA’s Mission Control room at the Johnson Space Center. Meanwhile, the Clerk’s Office sends a separate e-mail to the astronaut with login information to access the ballot and vote.

“So there’s this plan in place and I’ll have an electronic ballot and be able to vote from up here,” Chamitoff told from the space station recently.

The completed ballot is then beamed back to Mission Control and sent back to the County Clerk’s office to be tallied.

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One Response to Astronauts to Vote From Space Station

  1. Warren says:

    How long do they have to wait in line?

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