(CNN) — Kemba Smith Pradia voted for the first time in her life in Indianapolis city elections last fall.
This year, she moved from Indiana to Virginia, a few months ahead of the November presidential election, in which she’d very much like to cast her ballot.
But she can’t. Pradia is a former felon, and in Virginia, people convicted of violent felonies, drug crimes, and certain other offenses must wait for five years before even applying for a gubernatorial restoration of voting rights. That’s five years after serving your sentence, finishing supervised probation and paying all fines and restitution. And those five years have to be clean — no misdemeanors or pending convictions, or the application is void.
Such laws — which exist in various forms in 11 other states besides Virginia — mean that an estimated 5.8 million people do not have the right to vote, according to ProCon.org, a non-partisan group that researches and tracks controversial issues.
The NAACP launched a nationwide campaign Tuesday to restore voting rights for ex-felons, saying that state efforts to block such rights are thinly veiled attempts to suppress the black vote.