Beam me up ... an absentee ballot? It turns out there's no distance too far for absentee voting on Election Day. NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station have the option of voting from space, thanks to savvy technology and a 1997 bill passed by Texas lawmakers.
Astronauts working on the space station receive a digital version of their ballots in a secure email, which are beamed up to them from Mission Control at the Johnson Space Center in Houston, and then sent back to Earth.
"They send a secure ballot to Mission Control," NASA spokesman Jay Bolden of the Johnson Space Center told ABCNews.com. "They'll send it up to our astronauts onboard, and they fill it out and send it back as a private email. ... astronauts do have privacy in the matter."
The ballot is then sent directly to voting authorities.
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"The election folks count it and tabulate it just like any other vote," Bolden said. "The astronaut has voted and helped make democracy possible."
Astronauts can vote this way in any kind of U.S. election. Bolden estimates that roughly eight to 10 astronauts have used the method to vote in presidential elections since it became law in 1997.
Current Station Cmdr. Sunita Williams, who is a captain in the U.S. Navy, voted from Russia using the same absentee ballot that troops abroad use before she departed for her duties as part of Expedition 32 on the International Space Station. The second American on the six-person crew currently at the lab is flight engineer Kevin Ford. He voted with a Texas absentee ballot while stationed in Russia before the launch, according to Bolden.
NASA astronauts Leroy Chiao, Edward Michael Fincke and Greg Chamitoff have all voted while aboard the International Space Station.