Four American astronauts who will be in orbit on Election Day will be voting from space. This is not the first time that voting from space has happened.
One of the astronauts, Kate Rubins, is an Expedition 63/64 crew member and will leave for her mission to the International Space Station on Oct. 14. Rubins has cast her vote from space before.
Others voting are SpaceX Crew Dragon astronauts Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins and Shannon Walker. Their mission to the ISS begins on Halloween.
In 1997, a Texas bill was passed (Rule 81.35) to legally allow voting from space. Since astronauts attend training in Houston, many of them register to vote as Texas residents.
Voting from space is a form of ABSENTEE voting. It begins with a Federal Postcard Application, or FPCA. These forms are the same ones that military members and their family members of voting age fill out when they are serving in another country.
After the FPCA is approved a test is done to make sure the astronaut can receive the electronic ballot at the ISS, fill it out and send it back to the county clerk’s office. Once this test is done successfully the astronaut is ready to vote.
The county clerk then sends member-specific credentials to the astronaut, which allows only them to have access to their secure ballot. After they have voted, the astronaut sends the ballot back to the county clerk’s office for their ballot to be recorded. The clerk has his or her own password to open the email; it cannot be opened by anyone except that clerk.
The process of voting from space is very secure, but the astronaut must still follow rules. They must submit their ballot by 7 p.m. local time for the county in which they are voting.