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Voting from space: How astronauts cast their ballot




This July 2007 image provided by NASA shows astronaut Clay Anderson waving during a spacewalk outside the International Space Station. Astronauts traveling to and from Mars would be bombarded with as much cosmic radiation as they’d get from a full-body CT scan about once a week for a year, researchers reported Thursday, June 30, 2013. NASA aims to send a crew to orbit the red planet by the mid-2030s. (AP Photo/NASA)
This July 2007 image provided by NASA shows astronaut Clay Anderson waving during a spacewalk outside the International Space Station. Astronauts traveling to and from Mars would be bombarded with as much cosmic radiation as they’d get from a full-body CT scan about once a week for a year, researchers reported Thursday, June 30, 2013. NASA aims to send a crew to orbit the red planet by the mid-2030s. (AP Photo/NASA)
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Midterm elections are less than a month away and voters across the U.S. are brushing up on propositions and deciding between candidates to support at the ballot box. It's a simple enough process, but it becomes a little more complicated if you're trying to exercise your democratic right from space.

National Journal technology correspondent Alex Brown looked into how astronauts can vote when they're not even on the planet. He says it all began in the 1980s, when the space program was largely focused on space shuttle launches, and missions would only last about a week or two. But once the space program made the shift to space stations, and therefore longer missions, the astronauts had no way of voting, even as an absentee.

The issue took center stage with Texas legislators in 1996, when John Blaha launched to the Mir Space Station and realized he was not going to be able to vote.

“So that kind of galvanized officials to say, ‘Hey, we need to make a process for astronauts to be able to vote,'” Brown said.

Texas legislators got to work and passed a bill that allows astronauts to vote by email. Texas took on the task because most astronauts are based out of Houston, Brown said.

Brown says some astronauts feel the intense need to vote partly out of their civic duty, and partly out of something deeper.

“It feels like a connection to home,” Brown said. “One astronaut compared it to perhaps military soldiers overseas getting to watch football games, and it’s just a little sense of home where you don’t feel like you’re so far flung and away from American society.”