Special to the Atlanta Daily World

The NAACP has launched a national campaign to combat felony disenfranchisement laws and restore the votes of millions of citizens across the country.
“Voting is a right, not a privilege. In America we believe in second chances. People who have served their time deserve the right to vote,” said Benjamin Todd Jealous, President & CEO of the NAACP.

“For these reasons, all people who have served their time should have their voting rights restored. Every American citizen should be outraged that Florida Governor Rick Scott chose to turn back the clocks on tens of thousands of citizens and take the vote away from an entire group of Americans who would be able to vote in most states.”
As part of the campaign to end felony disenfranchisement, the NAACP has launched billboards featuring Kemba Smith Pradia, actor Charles Dutton and Judge Greg Mathis, along with, Desmond Meade, and Jessica Chiappone. Each of these individual were formally convicted of a felony and that have or could have their right to vote restricted by felony disenfranchisement laws.

“I represent a number of people who are no longer incarcerated, are productive members of society, and yet are still unable to exercise their fundamental right to vote,” said Kemba Smith Pradia. “With resources and an expansive support system I am continuing the fight to restore my rights. However, without the same support, these laws have left a growing number of people stymied and blocked from the highest form of civic participation.”

Nearly two decades ago, Kemba was convicted of felony drug charges. In 2004, former President Bill Clinton granted her executive clemency after hearing her case. Since then, she has finished her undergraduate degree, married, raised her child, started law school, championed criminal justice issues, and continued to act as a productive member of society. As a resident in Virginia however, she is unable to vote.

Florida Governor Rick Scott reinstated restrictions on the voting rights for formerly incarcerated citizens, repealing his predecessor Charlie Crist’s decision to restore voting rights for those who served their sentences. Florida joins Virginia, Iowa, and Kentucky in permanently disenfranchising citizens even after they have completed all the terms of their sentence. To date, approximately 1.5 citizens are disenfranchised in Florida alone— making it the highest amongst disenfranchising states.

“Florida cannot be in the business of disenfranchising those who are otherwise wholly eligible to vote,” said Adora Obi Nweze, President of the NAACP Florida State Conference. “The Florida State Conference of the NAACP is leading the way in the fight against felony disenfranchisement laws.”

Across the country 48 states employ a felony disenfranchisement law of some sort. Due to this, nearly six million citizens are unable to vote because of felony convictions—4.4 million of these citizens are no longer incarcerated. However, recognizing the impact on the American community, people across the political spectrum are working to change these laws.

Last week, the NAACP sent its second delegation to the United Nations Human Rights Council to progress the restoration of rights for people formally convicted of felonies on an international platform. The delegation hosted a panel and met with several world leaders to discuss felony disenfranchisement in the United States.
For more information about the campaign visit http://www.restorethevotes.org.

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