Voting in Outer Space

February 3, 2020

“To sit back and let fate play its hand out and never influence it is not the way man was meant to operate.” — John Glenn


Voting in Outer Space

If you have ever found yourself wondering about voting in outer space, this is the blog post you have been looking for. In 1997 a law was passed in Texas that allowed astronauts to vote electronically while in outer space. This law states that “a person who meets the eligibility requirements of a voter under the Texas Election Code, Chapter 101, but who will be on a space flight during the early-voting period and on Election Day, may vote.”

Here are the processes astronauts must follow in order to vote:

  • Before the mission the astronaut classifies which elections they will in orbit for.
  • Before Election Day an encrypted electronic ballot is uplinked to the astronauts.
  • The astronauts use a set of unique credentials sent to them by e-mail to access their ballot, cast their vote, and downlink them back down to Earth to the County Clerk’s office.

Interestingly enough, these unique credentials sound fairly similar to how ElectionBuddy makes use of access keys!

There is no opportunity to procrastinate if you wish to vote in space since the process starts a year before the mission’s launch. If the astronaut does not select the elections they wish to participate in, in advance, they will be unable to participate. Once the astronauts are in space procrastinating still isn’t advised because there can be a 20-minute communication delay between the space station and Earth. The astronauts do their part in order to ensure that their vote will be counted.

Voting in Outer Space

If you would like to watch a short video on voting in outer space you can view it here.

Apparently, this voting process isn’t much different than absentee voting. The biggest difference is the fact that in outer space they have to list their address as “low-Earth orbit.” Perhaps one day this legislation will reach further than just Texas. There is the potential for this law to extend to civilians based on the fact that space hotels are on the horizon.

The processes that have been put in place to allow voting in outer space shows the importance of remote voting and how there is always a way to go and have your voice heard in the voting process.

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