MUNDANE MYSTERIES: How Do Astronauts Vote From Space?

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MUNDANE MYSTERIES: How Do Astronauts Vote From Space?

With election day coming up tomorrow today’s mystery is how do astronauts vote from space?

As you might imagine it’s very similar to how military members vote via absentee with a few additional things because ya’know… space.

This is how it’s explained from NASA…

Like other forms of absentee voting, voting from space starts with a Federal Postcard Application, or FPCA. It’s the same form military members and their families fill out while serving outside of the U.S. By completing it ahead of their launch, space station crew members signal their intent to participate in an election from space.

Because astronauts move to Houston for their training, most opt to vote as Texas residents. Of course, NASA’s astronauts come from all over, so those wishing to vote as residents of their home states can work with their counties to make special arrangements to vote from space.

Once their FPCA is approved, the astronaut is almost ready to vote. Like many great things in space, voting starts with an experiment. The county clerk who manages elections in the astronaut’s home county sends a test ballot to a team at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Then they use a space station training computer to test whether they’re able to fill it out and send it back to the county clerk.

After a successful test, a secure electronic ballot generated by the Clerk’s office of Harris County and surrounding counties in Texas, is uplinked by Johnson’s Mission Control Center to the voting crew member. An e-mail with crew member-specific credentials is sent from the County Clerk to the astronaut. These credentials allow the crew member to access the secure ballot.

The astronaut will then cast their vote, and the secure, completed ballot is downlinked and delivered back to the County Clerk’s Office by e-mail to be officially recorded. The clerk has their own password to ensure they are the only one who can open the ballot. It’s a quick process, and the astronaut must be sure to submit it by 7 p.m. local time on Election Day if voting as a Texas resident.


So there you go. That’s how it’s done. Best part? No polling place lines in space.


Photo credit: Getty Images