NASA astronaut voting from space encourages Americans to vote from the ground

During the November 3 national elections, NASA astronaut Kate Rubin will be on the International Space Station (ISS). But even though she’ll be 200 miles above the Earth, she plans on voting and she’s encouraging Earth-bound Americans to do the same.

“I think it’s really important for everybody to vote,” Rubin said Friday in a statement to the Associated Press. “If we can do it from space, then I believe folks can do it from the ground, too.”

Even though Rubin won’t be on the planet—she’ll be floating around the ISS—she and other U.S. astronauts are still legally allowed to cast ballots from space thanks to a 1997 Texas law.

Many U.S. astronauts claim residence in Houston, Texas, home of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center, where NASA trains its astronauts. As such, astronauts are permitted to vote in the state’s elections from space because of section 81.35 in the Texas Administrative Code.

The law states, “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.”

Texas passed the law after Mike Jackson, a Republican who was then a Texas state Senator, heard that American astronaut John E. Blaha wasn’t able to vote during the 1996 presidential elections. Blaha was on a mission at the Russian Mir space station at the time, according to NPR.

In a recent message about the upcoming national elections, NASA astronaut Kate Rubins said, “I think it’s really important for everybody to vote. If we can do it from space, then I believe folks can do it from the ground, too.” She is currently in Star City, Russia, preparing for a mid-October launch towards the International Space Station.Bill Ingalls-NASA/Getty

For astronauts to vote, the astronaut must notify NASA of their intention to cast a ballot up to a year ahead of time. Then, closer to Election Day, the Houston County Clerk must deliver the ballot to the Johnson Space Center’s Mission Control, and Mission Control then electronically transmits the ballot to the astronaut’s spacecraft.

Included with the ballot is a special access code to ensure that the astronaut who requested the ballot is the only person who can access it for voting. After the astronaut makes their selections, they transmit their completed ballot back to Mission Control which then delivers it to the county clerk’s office to be counted.

Rubin is currently in Star City, Russia, home to the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Center, where she is preparing alongside two cosmonauts for their mid-October launch to the ISS. Rubin will stay at the ISS for six months.

She’s not the first astronaut ever to vote from space, though. Shane Kimbrough cast his ballot from ISS in the 2016 national elections. Leroy Chiao, commander of Expedition 10, voted in the 2004 election while aboard the ISS too. Astronaut David Wolf also voted in a local election in 1997 while aboard the Russian space station, Mir.

*story by NewsWeek