We have some time to kill so let’s check in with how the voting is going in low Earth orbit. That may sound like the introductory line to a bad bar joke, but we did have two votes cast from a couple hundred miles above any voting places you visited. The Associated Press reports that one of them, astronaut Shane Kimbrough (who describes himself as “basically apolitical”), just cast his ballot from the International Space Station (ISS).
Newsy has a brief video report of how it worked.
You might think, oh, that’s just an absentee ballot. He didn’t really vote from space. But that’s not true. Space.com explains why astronauts are allowed to do this.
When astronauts get their absentee ballots, their address is listed as “low-Earth orbit,” said Kate Rubins, who wrapped up a nearly four-month stint aboard the space station late last month.
Mission Control at JSC beams a digital version of these absentee ballots up to ISS crewmembers, who fill them out and send them back down. The ballots then go directly from Mission Control to the voting authorities, JSC officials have said.
Both Kimbrough and Rubins used this system to vote from the ISS this fall, NASA officials said.
It turns out that this isn’t anything new. The first NASA astronaut cast their vote from space in 1997. David Wolf did it from the Russian space station Mir. A specific law passed in Texas that year allowed for the electronic transmission of ballots from voters whose residence was listed as being, “low Earth orbit.” I suppose this was a sop to NASA to give them a fun, fluff story for the press to run because most astronauts could simply put in an absentee ballot early from their homes. But not all of them. I wonder if Scott Kelly voted during his 340 day stay aboard the ISS. There wouldn’t have been any ballots available (nor would we have known the names of the candidates) when he took off. So I suppose there might be a reason for the law after all.
We still don’t want aliens voting in our elections, but in the case of the astronauts I suppose we can make an exception.