An American citizen who happens to be absent from the United States but the planet, astronaut Shane Kimbrough, cast his ballot remotely from the International Space Station in the current election. The way the system works is that a digital version of the ballot is beamed to the ISS, Americans on the station fill it out, then transmit it back for NASA to send it to the voting authorities. The arrangement has been around for quite some time, first having been used in 1997 when Dave Wolf was on the Russian space station Mir.

As more Americans spend more time in space, this unique system of voting is going to be used more often. Right now astronauts on duty in space list wherever their earthly residence is as their voting location, much like servicemen and women who are serving overseas do. But what is going to happen when Americans start living in space on a more or less permanent basis, such on the moon or Mars?

Since a moon or Mars colony is not likely to become independent countries any time soon, people living there won’t, one suspects, give up their national citizenships.

But the idea suggests that an even more unique voting system is going to be set up in which space colonists will vote in the elections of their various countries on a national level but will not be able to vote on a local level, at least until such colonies get some kind of elected government.

Who would represent Americans living in space in Congress if they don’t have an address on Earth, inside the United States? Would a nonvoting delegate, much as the ones who represent American territories such as Puerto Rico and American Samoa, be elected to represent Americans in Space?

How would that kind of system be brought into compliance with the clause of the Outer Space Treaty that prohibits claims of national sovereignty of other worlds?

The problem is not an immediate one, and no doubt is prone to a number of creative solutions. But things like that can creep up until government bureaucracies look at them square in the face and have to scramble, such as the current issue of if someone can own material one mines from the moon or an asteroid.

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