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How astronaut Kate Rubins voted from space

Kate Rubins EMU Portrait (Josh Valcarcel/NASA)

Early voting turnout so far this year has been impressive with the number of ballots cast already nearing 2016 levels in a number of states.

Many voters are taking time out of their work days to cast their votes, perhaps best illustrated by Kate Rubins, an astronaut aboard the International Space Station who cast a ballot last week.

How did the only American voter not on Earth cast her ballot from 200 miles above the clouds? A nearly 25-year-old Texas state law.

Rubins, who also voted from space when she was aboard the ISS in 2016, was able to cast a ballot because Texas lawmakers gave astronauts who are registered in the Lone Star State the right to electronically cast their ballot if they are on a space flight during the early voting period or on Election Day.

So how does the process actually work? After astronauts fill out a Federal Postcard Application, the same form filled out by military service people and their families who are overseas, the Harris County Clerk’s Office (NASA is headquartered in Houston, in Harris County), sends an electronic ballot to NASA which sends it to the ISS. Using secure credentials, the astronaut fills out their ballot and it is submitted by the the county clerk via email.

The space agency aims to keep, and perhaps one day improve, this process so astronauts can keep voting from the Moon, Mars and beyond.


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