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Jennifer Lawrence is speaking out this week while social distancing during the novel coronavirus pandemic to urge people to support vote-at-home measures to increase election participation, even while millions of people are staying indoors.
“First and foremost, I want to give my heartfelt sympathies to everyone who’s been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and my deepest gratitude to the emergency responders and health care workers who are risking their health every day,” the Oscar winner, 29, says in a new video, shared exclusively with PEOPLE.
Lawrence, who married art dealer Cooke Maroney in October, recorded the clip at home; she — like many — is currently following the best guidelines about avoiding public to slow new infections of the respiratory illness.
“The best thing we can do to slow the spread of this virus is to stay at home,” she says in the video. “But there’s still an election coming up, with millions of Americans who have yet to cast their ballot in the 2020 primaries.”
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She’s asking others to go to the RepresentUs voting rights organization, which is providing information on how people can call their local lawmakers about voting-at-home legislation. The organization also provides information on receiving absentee ballots now, where possible.
“This is extremely important. It’s our elections we’re talking about,” says Lawrence, “so please help spread the word by posting on your social media with the hashtag #VoteAtHome.”
Many states and communities allow absentee voting already, if someone cannot go to a polling place in person, but the requirements for who qualifies to be absentee vary widely.
Some states, like New York and Texas, still require voters to have a proper “excuse” to receive a mail-in absentee ballot. In Texas, for example, a voter must either be 65 years or old, disabled, out of the country on election day or in prison to be eligible.
The 2020 presidential election is a little more than seven months away, with Donald Trump running for re-election against either former Vice President Joe Biden or Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders from the Democratic Party. Biden emerged as the front-runner for the Democratic nomination earlier this month.
Worry about voter access in November comes as the coronavirus pandemic has already delayed a number of state primary elections that were scheduled for March and April and health officials call for the continued use of social distancing to fight the virus while treatments and a vaccine are developed.
There were more than 189,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. as of Wednesday, according to a New York Times tracker. More than 3,900 people have died.
The pandemic all but froze daily life in the U.S. in mid-March, including the Democratic Party’s presidential primary race — shutting down campaign rallies and other events and leading some polling places to postpone their votes.
“Voting at home, also known as vote by mail or absentee voting, gives people the option to vote without the stress of finding childcare, taking time off work… or worrying about a global pandemic,” the RepresentUs campaign’s mission statement reads. “In this and every election, it’s integral that everybody has the chance to participate — that’s why we need to pass this bill requiring all states to allow voters to request absentee ballots when a widespread emergency would make voting in person unsafe.”
A total of 14 states have postponed their state primaries after federal health officials called for Americans to follow strict social distancing practices and avoid gathering in public groups larger than 10 in an effort to slow the virus’ spread. Those guidelines have since been extended through the end of April.
With the Democratic National Committee’s June 9 deadline for states to hold their primaries, many states looked to push back their vote to the latest possible day. Now, as many as 12 states will vote on June 2.
Democratic National Committee Chair Tom Perez has implored states to rely on absentee mail-in ballots and curbside ballot drop-offs to accommodate health concerns, according to the Times.
“Some states won’t allow you to turn in an absentee ballot without an excuse,” Lawrence says in her video, adding that new legislation can make it “so that you can cast your ballot from the safety of your own home.”
As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.