Orbiting 200 miles above earth in the International Space Station, astronauts have not forgotten about their right to vote. Four astronauts will cast their votes from space during the upcoming American presidential election. A Texas law passed in 1997 ensured astronauts can still exercise this constitutional right while off-planet. First, an encrypted and password protected ballot is uploaded by Houston's Mission Control. The astronauts fill out their ballot and then return it to Earth, where it is counted at the county level like every other vote.
Of the astronauts set to vote in space this year, Kate Rubins of NASA is already an expert on doing strange things in space. The Stanford-educated astronaut was the first person to sequence DNA in orbit. She also voted from space during the 2016 election, listing her address as “Low-Earth orbit.” “It's critical to participate in our democracy,” Rubins told The Associated Press. “I think it's really important for everybody to vote,” she elaborated. “If we can do it from space, then I believe folks can do it from the ground, too.”
For those of us voting on earth, there are lots of resources to make sure your voice is heard. Voter registration deadlines are approaching in many states. Check your state's deadline on this list. Confirming that your registration is active and up to date is also easy. Try a simple 30-second search here. Once you know your registration is active, check deadlines for requesting an absentee ballot here. Remember to mail your ballot as soon as possible to ensure postal delays do not affect your vote. If you are voting in person, you can look up your polling place here. Early voting is already open in many states and is always a good option.
There are lots of ways to get involved in the civic process beyond voting. Poll workers are typically older people, and due to the pandemic, many polling stations are anticipating a shortage. Young people are encouraged to volunteer to be a poll worker to help facilitate the democratic process. What is one small thing everyone can do now? Ask your family, friends, and coworkers what their plan is to cast their vote. It has been shown that people who articulate to others their plan for where and when they are going to vote are more likely to follow through and cast their ballot.
You can be like a NASA astronaut and cast your vote for your favorite candidates on November 3 Election Day. You can also learn more about election and voting rules in your state with this helpful guide from FiveThirtyEight.
Astronauts can vote from space by a secure encrypted ballot.
NASA astronaut Kate Rubins will cast her vote from the International Space Station. She emphasized the importance of voting, even off-planet.
To learn more about how to make sure your voice is heard during the November 3 election, check out Vote.Org for more information.