The Instigator
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7 Points
The Contender
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7 Points

Felon Disenfranchisement

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/18/2008 Category: Politics
Updated: 8 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 4,520 times Debate No: 6280
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (2)




Resolved: in a democratic society felons ought to retain the right to vote.
Obs1. Since the United States is the only one of 166 democratic nations in the world that bar felons from voting the resolution is implying the US is the above democratic society.
*Democratic Society (democracy): government by the people; a form of government in which the supreme power of the land is vested in the people and directly exercised by them

*Disenfranchisement: the revocation of the right to vote or suffrage to any individual or group of people, or rendering a vote less effective, or ineffective

*Felon: a person who has been convicted of a felony, which is sufficiently serious to be punishable by death or a term in state or federal prison, as distinguished from a misdemeanor
V: Human Rights- Human rights refers to the "basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled." Examples of rights and freedoms which are often thought of as human rights include civil and political rights, such as the right to life and liberty, freedom of expression, and equality before the law; and social, cultural and economic rights, including the right to participate in culture, the right to food, the right to work, and the right to education.
VC: Equality- rights, treatment, quantity, or value equal to all others in a specific group- full equality under the law
::Contention1::Society uses disenfranchisement to protect the contestation of existing values.
Throughout history the United States has used disenfranchisement as a means to oppress different demographic groups. Women, African Americans, and the poor have had their political rights denied in order to maintain the status quo. The poor were first to gain the right to vote under President Jackson. Shortly thereafter a broad range of economic and political reforms were instituted. The same has happened after with women and African American won enfranchisement. When these groups won their right to vote, there were major political, social, and economic shifts throughout the country. Because women were allowed to vote prohibition was passed. Society is scarred of the changes allowing felons to vote will bring to the nation. The same was true when African Americans gained the right to vote. Allowing felons to vote will not result in a massive wave of unjust laws, nor will the government be filled with felon politicians. The Democratic nature of our country will not let a minority of felons completely change the countries moral foundation. The democratic nature of our country also forbids the silencing of minority groups. In order to be a true democratic society we need to let all minorities participate in elections. If we don't we are taking away the basic human rights everyone deserves.
::Contention2:: Disenfranchised groups are seen as sub-citizens, and enfranchisement helps gain status as equals. African Americans and Women were long seen as sub-human in United States history. They were treated as property not as people. This is true with felons also. Notice in the resolution it does not refer to felons as people that made some mistakes, the resolution refers to them as felons. Felons are not treated as people. They have a hard time finding jobs. They don't make as much money. Felons have long term restrictions on their basic rights even after they have served their time and have payed their debt to society. Their right to privacy is often violated depending on state laws. They lose the rights to welfare, they lose housing rights, and they can lose parental rights. This is dehumanizing and further isolates felons from society. By giving felons the right to vote we give them a way to reintegrate into society. We give them a way to win their rights back.
::Contention3:: Limiting the right to vote introduces racial as well as economic and political inequalities.
Racial/political--"Of the approximately 100,000 parolees and probationers subject to the New Jersey's felon-disfranchisement law, more than 60 percent are African American or Latino, which the ACLU and Rutgers say is in large measure a consequence of racial profiling in the criminal justice system. As a result, the political power of the African American and Latino communities in New Jersey is diluted because they are disproportionately excluded from voting. Disenfranchisement laws have been used to keep minorities out of power before. Literacy tests and poll taxes have been used to remove power disenfranchise minorities before and felon disfranchisement is another tool to keep the minorities out of power.
Economic—according to the US Bureau of Justice Statistics most felons belong to the bottom quintile annual income. Disenfranchisement takes away felons right to vote on issues regarding felons. Felons lose their right to welfare. Most felons depend on this welfare to survive. Taking away the welfare further encourages felons to commit illegal acts to make ends meet. Giving felons the right to vote gives them a means to secure other rights and help they need to stay out of prison.
Because felon disenfranchisement creates inequality by restricting voting and making felons inferior to regular citizens, human rights are minimized. In order for human rights to be satisfied equality must be established. Felons must have the same opportunity to vote and have an equal chance to gain human rights.


Because the interests of felons does not truly represent the interests of the wider population I urge a negative ballot.
My value is the preservation of a democratic society because that is the foundation for what democratic societies ought to do.
Retain: to keep in possession
The resolution asks us what we ought to do. But it does not ask us what we ought to do in a vacuum, rather it says what we ought to do in a democratic society. Thus my criterion is upholding a democracy that best serves the interests of the people. This is necessary for preserving a democratic society because the purpose of having a democracy is to take the people's consideration into account while making policy decisions.
I offer 2 contentions for this criterion.
Contention 1: It is in the people's best interest to uphold the social contract, and the social contract suggests that felons ought to be disenfranchised.
Social contract describes is a set of agreements by which people form nations and maintain a social order. Such social contract implies that the people give up some rights to a government and other authority in order to receive or jointly preserve social order. This literally functions as a contract, if one side doesn't hold his own, the other side doesn't have to either.
There are several reasons why the people want to maintain the social contract:
First, without the social contract there would be no consequences for breaking the rules. It would be impossible to preserve a democracy when it allows its residents to do whatever they please. Second: the social contract serves as a check for the government as well. If a government follows the social contract, it will avoid corruption or excessive power. Third, the social contract makes citizens feel safe and allows them to live normal, unselfish lives. If people knew that there were no consequences for crime, they would always be protecting themselves and not others because they are very likely to be robbed or hurt.
Disenfranchising felons is clearly consistent with the social contract: The felons didn't listen to the government, so the government doesn't have to listen to them. By committing such a serious crime, the felons gave up their right to make rules.
At the very least, this true for felons and committers of electoral fraud.

Richard L. Lippke writes,
Certain crimes, by their very natures, constitute direct assaults on democratic forms of political organization. Such crimes consist either of attempts to overthrow or undermine democratic governments, as in cases of treason or sedition, or efforts to manipulate or thwart the outcomes of democratic elections, as in cases of ballot tampering or other types of electoral fraud. Not only do democratic governments seem warranted in prohibiting conduct that threatens their effective and appropriate functioning, a plausible case can be made that those guilty of such crimes are prime candidates for disenfranchisement. Their offenses, are different from other kinds of criminal offenses, since they exhibit obvious contempt for democratic political processes. As a matter of fairness it is only fitting that those who act in ways inimical to the operation of democratic governments should be denied the opportunity to participate in determining who will occupy official roles in such governments or the policies enacted and enforced. Those prepared to act in ways that deprive others of realization of the interests served by democratic political participation cannot consistently demand that the state continue to secure such interests for them by not interfering with their exercise of the franchise.

Contention 2: Allowing felons to vote does not best represent the interests of the broader electorate. Government is supposed to determine laws that will best benefit society. By their conduct, felons have demonstrated that they don't think it is necessary to follow these laws, therefore giving up their right to make the rules. Society has chosen laws that they think will best protect them and people around them, yet the felons completely disregarded these rules proving that they are either incapable or unwilling to abide by the rules that are necessary to benefit society. Because of this these should be the last people who we allow to make the laws for society.
Now I offer this following under view:
We cannot embrace static conclusions about what we ought do in a democracy. Amy Gutman and Dennis Thompson explain:

Keeping the decision-making process open --recognizing that its results are provisional--is important for two reasons. First, in politics as in much of practical life, decision-making processes and the human understanding upon which they depend are imperfect. We therefore cannot be sure that the decisions we make today will be correct tomorrow, and even the decisions that appear most sound at the time may appear less justifiable in light of later evidence. Second, in politics most decisions are not consensual. Those citizens and representatives who disagreed with the original decision are more likely to accept it if they believe they have a chance to reverse or modify it in the future

Even if you are convinced every argument in my opponent's case is true, we should never foreclose discussion in a democracy. Foreclosing discussion is dangerous because we might enshrine an ideal that is later proven irrelevant. So even if my opponent's case is entirely true, we still wouldn't affirm because that would end democratic discussion by establishing a normative rule. Moreover, even if the affirmative doesn't end democratic discussion, what ought be done in a democracy is to follow the agreed upon rules of that democracy. Thus, we cannot establish the resolution as something that democracies universally ought to do.

Ok so first my opponents criterion: human rights is not a good value for this debate because voting is not a human right, it is a political right. Human rights are the set of rights that humans are entitled to no matter what society they live in, voting can only be a right if one lives in a democratic society, thus it is not a human right. So you can reject my opponents entire case because his value is not relevant to this debate.
Now his criterion: Equality definitely is important in a democracy, but there has to be limits. We should treat people equally UNLESS they have proven to us that they do not deserve some rights. For example, we don't allow felons to carry fire arms. Likewise, we shouldn't allow felons to vote because they have proven to us that they do not care about the welfare of society.
His first contention: First, my opponent talks about how black people and women couldn't vote in history, but that's different because there was no good reason for disenfranchisement there. There is clearly a reason to disenfranchise felons. Second, my opponent talks about how it is undemocratic to not let certain minorities vote. But is that really true? Children are minorities, but why don't we let them vote? I think many "children" under 18 are much more mature and have better judgment than felons. Second, the purpose of a democracy is to benefit the citizens. The citizens have chosen laws that they believe will best benefit themselves and others, but the felons blantantly disregarded these laws showing that they don't care about the general welfare.
His second contention: Let me make this clear- I DO NOT HAVE TO PROVE THAT THEY SHOULD BE DISENFRANCHISED FOREVER (sorry for caps just wanted to make it stand out lol). I only have to prove that felons ought to lose the right in prison, based on my definition of retain. Allowing felons to vote will not help them reintegrate into society, get jobs, or get an education, especially if they only lose it in prison. It just does not make sense, and even if it did reintegrate them, it is so little that it is not worth disregarding social contract.
Debate Round No. 1


I would liketo thank my opponent for the debate and wish him luck.
First I would like to rebut my opponent's case, I will then go over V/VCs then I will move defend my case.
My opponent's first contention can essentially be summed up in one of my opponent's sentences. "Disenfranchising felons is clearly consistent with the social contract: The felons didn't listen to the government, so the government doesn't have to listen to them." Disenfranchisement is not part of the social contract. The social contract my opponent describes in the sentences above this quote does not call for disenfranchisement it calls for punishment. We have punishment it is called prison. This is where justice is served this is where felons pay their debt to society. Disenfranchisement is not an acceptable punishment. It does not meet any of the universally recognized goals of justice. These goals are to deter, retribution, and rehabilitation. Disenfranchisement does not deter, or rehabilitate, and is a very poor form of retribution. Taking away ones right to vote dehumanizes them and removes their access to other essential rights. This is in no way proportional to a felony. Let the justice system do what it was designed to do and let it punish the felons.
"Government is supposed to determine laws that will best benefit society." My opponent agreed to my definition of democratic society and this contention does not fit the definition of a democratic society. The Government doesn't determine the laws the people determine the laws and the government implements them. This contention is also refuted in the above paragraph where I talk about disenfranchisement not being an appropriate form of retribution.
MY opponent first makes an attack on my value. He says it is irrelevant to the debate, but because he brought up this argument he shows he completely misunderstood the fact that voting is nessacerry to securing and maintaining all other human rights. So my case stands and my opponents value is inferior to my value because if democracy is a means to obtaining human rights for everyone.
My opponent then makes an attack on my VC. He says that equality is important but there has to limits. This means that in a democracy there are citizens that are not equal to other citizens. This goes back to my point as felons being treated as secondary citizens. In a democratic society all citizens need to have an equal voice to protect their basic human rights. His VC is doing simply doing what the people want. This sounds good but is not logical. If the majority voted to disenfranchise a racial minority group we would have to do it. In this way my opponents VC contradicts his V of upholding democracy and also my V of human rights and therefore falls.
My opponent attacks my first contention by saying "First, my opponent talks about how black people and women couldn't vote in history, but that's different because there was no good reason for disenfranchisement there. There is clearly a reason to disenfranchise felons." He never says the reason to disenfranchise felons this argument falls. Next he argues that disenfranchising minorities is a good thing with the children disenfranchisement argument but this is different because children will eventually get the right to vote felons often will never gain this right again. He then says the purpose of democracy is to benefit citizens. He fails to understand that felons still are citizens. This means the purpose of democracy is to protect felon's rights because of this statement he essentially forfeits the debate.
C2. He says permanent disenfranchisement is not part of the debate. I defined the democratic society as the US and it is a problem in the US. This means that this attack fails. I have also proved that disenfranchisement does not fit within the social contract so you can disregard this attack.
C3. He never says anything about it.
All of my opponents arguments have fallen along with his V and VC this means you must affirm the resolution.


I'm starting on my side of this debate then moving to the affirmative's side.
My value: My opponent for some reason says my value is inferior because "democracy is a means to obtaining human rights for everyone." If this is true, then my value of the Preservation of a Democratic Society is the best because clearly we want to keep our democracy.
My criterion: He says my criterion is only doing what the people want... that is not what it is. It is upholding a democracy that best serves the interests of the people. I am not saying that whatever the people vote for should be done... obviously just because the society votes for slavery doesn't mean that we should implement slavery. But the purpose of government in general (including a democracy) is to protect the people, and i have shown/ will show more why I am serving the best interest of the people and my opponent is not.
My 1st contention: First off, my opponent agreed that it is important to follow the social contract, so if i can show that disenfranchising felons is consistent with the social contract, I win this contention. My opponent's only response to this is that the punishment felons should get is jail. I agree, felons should be put in jail, and while in that jail they should have their vote taken away. In jail people don't have many important rights like liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness. If we don't allow them these basic rights, why should we allow them to vote? Jail is also not the only punishment. After felons are released from jail they cannot carry guns for obvious reasons. My opponent also says "This is in no way proportional to a felony": I agree, taking someone's vote away is not nearly as bad as raping or killing someone. So the main point is, while the felons are in jail they should not get to vote because they have not completed the rehabilitation process or paid there debt to society. And once again, LET THEM VOTE ONCE THEY'RE OUT OF JAIL.
Another point, my opponent dropped my Richard L. Lippke card about treason... so I win this round because i proved that a group of felons ought NOT have the right to vote.

2nd contention: My opponents only response to this is that i agreed to his definition of democracy, and best benefiting the people is not in it. I do agree to his definition of a democracy, a democracy is a government in which supreme power is vested in the people. But the people choose this type of government because they believe that they themselves can best make laws to benefit society. Also, in the U.S gov't does determine laws. We elect congressmen who are part of the government, and the CONGRESSMEN vote on laws, not the people directly.

UNDERVIEW: my opponent didn't respond to this AT ALL. You can vote negative because we can't decide what ought to be done in a democracy. We cannot establish a normative rule in a democracy because what democracies ought to do is listen to the people.

Now the Affirmative's case:
Value: I was simply saying that voting is not a human right, it is clearly a political right because you can only vote if you have a government. So my opponent cannot say that we need to protect human rights and have it be relevant to this debate.
Criterion: My opponent talks about felons being treated as secondary citizens because they can't vote. Again, let them vote OUT OF PRISON, but while they're in prison don't let them vote. In prison you already are a second class citizen pretty much, so taking away the right to vote will not hurt them anymore. My opponent also says "all citizens need to have an equal voice to protect their basic human rights." This is not true: just because people can't vote doesn't mean they don't have rights. For example children can't vote and they still have basic human rights. Also there are millions of people who choose not to vote, but just because they don't share their voice doesn't mean they don't have rights.

Contention 1: "He never says the reason to disenfranchise felons this argument falls"... that is what my whole case is about. To my second response to this contention he says that the purpose of democracy is to protect the felon's rights. I agree that we need to protect felons rights in general, but when they commit such a serious crime we have a reason for restricting their rights. It's the same when we send someone to prison, we try not to restrict rights, but when someone commits a felony they clearly deserve to have some rights taken away. Also, taking away the felons' right to vote while they're in prison is not restricting any of their "human rights". My opponent makes no connection to not letting them vote in prison and not having human rights.

Contention 2: My opponent's second contention is all about reintegrating felons into society. I say that taking their vote away ONLY IN PRISON will not hinder the reintegration process at all. My opponent's response to this does not make sense at all, "I defined the democratic society as the US and it is a problem in the US.". If my opponent is trying to say that because this is about the US, then we're talking about permanent disenfranchisement... then i propose we change the law limiting it to only disenfranchisement in prison. So pretty much you can take all of the affirmative impacts of helping reintegrate felons and put it on the negative's side.

Contention 3: My opponent's 3rd contention talks about how felons would not be able to get welfare if they couldn't vote. I ran out of letters responding to this, but i meant to say LET THEM VOTE OUT OF PRISON. If we let them vote once they are released from prison then they will be able to get welfare.

Conclusion: One of the key points of this debate is about letting felons vote out of prison. Take away their right in prison while they haven't rehabilitated yet, and give them it back once they leave prison. This point is key because it takes away his 2nd and 3rd contention. My opponents first contention is irrelevant because he talks about human rights, but voting clearly isn't a human right, it is a political right. Voting is only a right at all if you live in a democracy, so it cannot be considered a right that can be applied to all humans.
I win on my side of the case because i defended all of my contentions, and my opponent never responded to my underview.

Good luck.
Debate Round No. 2


merlinator forfeited this round.


extend my arguments
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by ViRiUnCteSiGnUmRuTiLuS46 8 years ago
Lol I hope you see what we set you up for with that definition, Merlinator. Thinking ahead wins debates. Good luck to both.
Posted by jdwooch 8 years ago
o jeez...
to his last contention... i meant to say let felons vote out of prison
got cut off.... i thought it said i had like 10 letters left... wutever
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Vote Placed by rougeagent21 8 years ago
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Vote Placed by jdwooch 8 years ago
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