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The Contender
Pro (for)
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In a Democratic Society Felons ought to Retain the Right to Vote

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/28/2008 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,707 times Debate No: 6357
Debate Rounds (3)
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Whoever excepts this debate please have some knowledge of how LD debate works. The Affirmitive side always goes first so whoever excepts this challenge should go first.


Thank you for posting this debate. Since this resolution is an LD topic, I will outline what Lincoln Douglas Debate is for anyone who votes. If my opponent disagrees with how I explain LD, we can argue in the comment section. However, this is a basic outline of how to judge LD debate.

The value is each debater's goal for the round. Values must be topical.
The value criterion (sometimes called standard, criterion, VC) is a weighing mechanism used to determine if and to what degree the value is met.
If an argument is never attacked, it is called a "dropped" argument. Once dropped, the opponent can not refute it in later rounds. Furthermore, an argument must always be extended (carried on in the next round) to have any impact.
Neither side can ignore one of their own arguments and then bring it up in the last speech.
Also, no new arguments can be brought up in round 3. They should be ignored if they are.
And lastly, the affirmative side always has the burden of proof, and the negative side has the burden of refutation.

When voting, you should first decide what value is the "paramount value" for the round. Next, you decide which VC best measures to what degree the resolution achieves the value. And finally, you look at the contentions (arguments) and determine which ones weigh the most on the VC. Whomever has the arguments that best achieve the value through the VC wins. It is possible to lose ones value and VC, but still win.

Now my case...


Aristotle once said, "If liberty and equality are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost." Because I believe this statement, I stand in firm affirmation of resolved: In a democratic society, felons ought to retain the right to vote. Before continuing, I offer the following definitions:
Democratic society: is government by the people in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised directly by them or by their elected agents under a free electoral system. Abraham Lincoln summarized this best in the words "of the people, by the people, and for the people."
Felons: as defined by Black's Law Dictionary as one who has committed a felony.
Ought: Should, or in the best interests of the actor

Since these definitions will set the grounds for today's debate, a few observations are required –
Observation 1: A democracy has three key elements that are essential to its existence:
a)A political system for choosing and replacing the government through free and fair elections.
b)The active participation of the people, as citizens, in politics and civic life.
c)A rule of law, in which the laws and procedures apply equally to all citizens.
It is with utmost importance that we all recognize the necessity of all three of these elements. By violating one, the democracy ceases to be a democracy. Therefore, both sides of this debate have the burden to prove that there position will not ignore any one of the three.
Observation 2: A felon is not only a person currently in jail, but anyone who ever committed a felon, now, or decades in the past. In other words, a man who was convicted of a felon in 1960 is still considered a felon in 2008. Therefore, neither my opponent nor I can overlook this group in our argumentation.

With both these observation in mind, we can look to my paramount value for today's round of maximizing equality. There are multiple reasons why maximizing equality is the paramount value:
1.Equality is the foundation for a democracy. All three elements of a democracy involve equality. If equality is not achieved, then the democracy falls. Therefore, equality has necessity
2.Equality can clearly be defined. When two individuals have the same possibility to act in the political process, equality is established. Other values, such as morality or justice can not clearly be defined, for they are subjective.
To achieve equality, my value criterion is philosopher Immanuel Kant's Categorical Imperative. The Categorical Imperative is simply a cost-benefit analysis for an action. If the net gain outweighs the net loss, according to Kant, then the action should be done. The Categorical Imperative is the best standard for maximizing equality because:
1.The Categorical Imperative is a clear weighing mechanism and has a clear bright line. In other words, we know when an action meets the categorical imperative.
2.The Categorical Imperative is topical. With the word ought, the resolution implies an agent must determine if he or she will have a net benefit from the action.
3.The Categorical Imperative is needed for equality. A democracies primary goal is it's survival. If it falls, it can no longer achieve any of it's other goals. Equality is how a democracy is maintained. So in the context of this debate, an action that preserves a democracy, one that leads to equality, will always be the ultimate benefit from the Categorical Imperative. Therefore any action, according to my criterion that should be done, will lead to equality.

Contention 1: Felon suffrage has no harms
Subpoint A: Felon suffrage for those currently in jail has no harms
I would like to reference my definition of ought, which describes an action that is beneficial to the actor. Therefore, my opponent will try to argue that suffrage to felons is harmful to society. This is simply not true. Since a democracy follows majority rule, a minority can only enact change when a section of the majority switches sides. Because of this, felons can not change public policy in a manner that will benefit them and harm the majority on a greater scale than any individual voter. Let's analyze a hypothetical scenario. A bill to abolish the death penalty is being voted on. If the death penalty is proven to help society, then the majority of society will vote to maintain it. So even if every single felon votes to abolish the death penalty, it will remain in place. Since no harm can come from allowing felons the right to vote, how can we say they don't deserve the same opportunity as everyone else.

Subpoint B: Felon suffrage for those out of jail has no harms.
It is understood that criminals deserve a punishment, but do they deserve a punishment beyond that decided on by a judiciary? Absolutely not. After serving their sentence, be in a fine or time in jail, a felon should be treated like the rest of society. By abolishing the felon's right to vote, we unjustly increase their punishment. Therefore, a felon, who has served their time, deserves the right to vote.

Contention 2: Felon suffrage has benefits.
Subpoint A: Felon suffrage preserves equality
The expansion of suffrage is needed for equality to exist. If voting rights are distributed on different levels for different people, equality is obviously not met. Equality can not be achieved with anything else but suffrage. If two individuals are treated completely equal by a government, except with the ability to vote, then the individual with suffrage has an unfair and unequal advantage in changing public policy for his betterment.

Subpoint B: Felon suffrage helps society progress
Sometimes the majority is only a slight majority when the issue is highly debated or has no clear answer to it's net gains. In this instance, felons can add another perspective to the equation. For example, most individuals do not know the quality of their prison system. Felons do. In the case of a bill that wants to give millions of dollars to fund prison reform, the opinion of voters will split. Many will consider it a waste of precious money, while others may see the benefits of a better prison system. The majority may be those against the funding, but they aren't necessarily right. If felons have the right to vote, they can add numbers to the minority and possibly make it the majority.
Debate Round No. 1


Okey Dokey. Thanks for excepting this debate! This is my first online debate, so bear with me! So as a brief roadmap for the judges, I will NOT be presenting my own case, but will head straight into attacking my opponents case. I will present my own value of Justice, which is defined as giving each person what they are due.(I have clearly defined justice, therefore my opponent cannot say that it is not clearly defined, furthermore, your value isn't something that is supposed to be defined easily, it is the intangible goal that we try to come close to meeting in the debate. It is SUPPOSED to be vague.) In any society, justice must be upheld to have a functioning society, we must give people just punishments. Felons who have voilated other people's rights are no longer due the right to vote.This is even more important in a democratic society because such a society would thrive on fairness and justice. The value criterion in a Lincoln douglas debate can either be how your value is measured, or how it is acheived. Therefore Justice can be acheived throught Societal welfare, which is the well-being, safety, and prosperity of society. Because justice does whatever is best for society, and protects society, then justice can only be acheived through societal welfare. In any functioning society, the government must uphold justice in order to protect society. In a democratic society, the government is society, so therefore society must protect itself. To clarify the resolution I would like to define the following words.
Democratic- Of the nature of, or characterized by, democracy; advocating or upholding democracy.(OED)
Society- A collection of individuals composing a community or living under the same organization or government.(OED)
Retain- To keep in possesion or use.
Democracy-Government by the people; that form of government in which the sovereign power resides in the people as a whole, and is exercised either directly by them (as in the small republics of antiquity) or by officers elected by them(OED)
Ought-That which should be done, the obligatory; a statement using ‘ought', expressing a moral imperative.(OED) In other words a moral obligation.(OED)
Now to attack my opponents case.
With my opponent first observation which stated three key elements to a democracy, he does not offer a single definition or source, so until he does this his observation cannot be considered a valid observation.
As for his second observation
The resolution specifically states RETAIN which is defined as to keep in possession or use. Meaning felons ought to be able TO KEEP the right to vote. Meaning they should be able to vote even while incarcerated (imprisoned), and never have the right to vote taken away from them, which is simply not the case. Felons should not be able TO KEEP in their possession(retain) the right to vote. However, there is nothing stopping them from REGAINING the right to vote AFTER they have repaid their debt to society, and proven that they can be beneficial to society once more. So while a felon in 1960 is still considered a felon in 2008, that doesn't necessarily mean that that felon ought not be able to vote if that felon has repaid his/her debt to society.
My opponent's value is Equality, however equality only exists as long as people believe that they are equal. And Felons who have voilated societies rights, have basically said that they are above society, and not equal to the rest of the people in society, and if a felon doesn't believe that he/she is equal to the rest of society, then he/she should not be given the same rights as the rest of the people in society. Furthermore my opponent has provided no source that says the foundation of democracy is equality. Because democracy is defined as government by the people in society. I would say the foundation of a democracy is government by the people in society. And when a felon has commited a crime he/she removes themselves form society, and therefore can no longer have a say in the government of that society.
As for his Value criterion, I'm not exactly clear on how it links to equality. He said that equalty is how democracy is maintained, again how is this true, he has not elaborated on this, he simply says that equality is how democracy is maintained. WHY is equality hoe democracy is maintained. (excuse me is I sound like a nagging school teacher) What does equality have to do with democracy. Isn't it the right to vote that maintains a democracy because democracy is based on the people in society goevern society, and the way in which the people in society govern society throught the right to vote?
My opponents first contention is that Felon suffrage has no harms
To attack his subpoint which was that felon suffrage for those in jail has no harm. My opponent says that because a democracy follows majority rule, the majority of the society decided what happens, not the 5 million or so felons currently in jail. He later says that sometimes the majority is only a slight majority, and the vote of the felons could change the outcome of the election. Isn't this kind of contradictory. Furthermore in his Contention 1 subpoint A he essentially says a felon's vote doesn't really matter because it won't change anything. Doesn't this basically contridict everything a democracy stands for? Because in a democracy EVERY vote matters, and EVERY vote can change an election. Furthermore a felon has voilated societies rights, and societies trust. If a felon cannot be trusted to run his/her own life how can we trust that felon to have a say in how the rest of society runs their live. Allowing a felon to vote would create a double standard because we would be allowing Law breakers to become Law makers. Also because ought is defined as a moral obligation, and doing what is moral is not always best for the actor. We cannot allow felons to vote because we have a moral obligation to protect society, and allowing felons to vote would be harmful to society.
His Subpount B- Again negating the resolution doesn't mean all felons will NEVER be able to vote. It means all felons should not be able to RETAIN the right to vote. As I have already explained the difference I won't elaborate on it unless it proves neccessary. Furthermore a felony is a crime punished by imprisonment for over a year or death. If society feels that you are a big enough threat to have to be removed from society for over a year then you should not be able to vote until you have been rehabilitated. My opponent says in this subpoint that after a felon's time in jail he/she should be treated the same as the rest of the people in society. However this is not true, if it were we would be allowing sex offenders to teach third grade, which we don't because justice doesn't give second chances. It does whatever is best for society.
Contention 2 Felon Suffrage has benfits.
Subpoint A Felon suffrage preserves equality.
Felons who have broken the law and committed a heinos crime can no longer be considered part of society. And as I have said before felons do not believe they are equal to the rest of the people in society. Furthermore, we don't give everyone equal voting right, take children and the mentally incompetant, they can't vote, in order to protect society, and similarly we must prevent felons from voting in order to protect society.
SubPoint B Felon suffrage helps society progress
First of all, in most democratic societies the people do not vote directly on bills, citizens vote for representatives who then vote for said bills. So a felon wouldn't really have his voice heard on this particular issue. Also the voice of the felons is not going to completely be oppressed, felons who have repaid their debt to society and proven themselves to be beneficial to society most likely know the quality of their prisons, and can lobby for prison reform.
Because of all these reasons I strongly urge for a vote in Negation.


Let's begin with the Value/Value Criterion debate.
I gave no source to why democracy was founded on equality because it is not proven through any sort of statistic. Democracy relies on people voting, and those votes being held equally. If the upper-class's vote has more power than the poor's, it isn't a democracy but an aristocracy. By equality, and I clarified in my definition, I refer to political equality. When people have a larger say in the government than others, political efficacy (belief that an individual can enact change) is diminished if not destroyed. Without political efficacy, people cease to vote. And as you said, a democracy relies on people voting. People will only vote if they are politcal equals. Therefore, political equality is needed for democracy. That was my opponent's only attack on my value. Onto my opponent's value of justice. I do agree that value's can be vague, but not so vague as we do not know what we are valuing. Giving each person there due (her definition of justice) is contradictory to democracy. That's called communism. People who are more knowledgeable about the issues deserve to vote more than an ignorant voter. But in a democracy, everyone can vote. Therefore, my opponent's value is not topical to what a democracy ought to do, but what a communist government ought to do. So you default to the pro's value of equality. Onto the value criterion. Societal Welfare and Kant's Categorical Imperative (my VC) serve the same weight in this round. Both measure the degree society is helped. Therefore, no debate is needed on the VC.

To my observation 1. My opponent said there was no citation so they don't matter. If she had read them, they would have logically made perfect sense. However, here is one source:,+as+citizens,+in+politics+and+civic+life.+c)A+rule+of+law,+in+which+the+laws+and+procedures+apply+equally+to+all+citizens.&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=2&gl=us&client=firefox-a
These criteria are found multiple places, from a Stanford lecture in Iraq about democracy, to the above link.
So we still maintain that my observation is true.

My opponent attacks my observation 2 by saying that a felon can lose their right to vote, but regain it. Wrong. A felon is still a felon in jail and out. If felons are barred from voting, they can not regain their right because they will always be a felon. Furthermore, if my opponent is arguing that felons should not retain their right to vote (they lose it), but should regain it later, she is not really advocating the loss of voting rights.

My opponent makes two comments that I would like to discuss. We will label them, for the sake of debate, observations 3 and 4.

Observation 3: If felons believe they are above society, they deserve less rights.
I completely agree with this statement, felons deserve less rights. But my opponent gives no clarification of what rights. Do I believe a felon should face a punishment for a crime? Of course. Should losing suffrage be a punishment? Not at all. Why should it?

Observation 4: Committing a crime removes an individual from society
This may be true in some countries, but not in democracies. And here is why. By removing someone from society, but still having them in society, you create a state with biopower (coined by Foucault and adopted by Agamben). A state with biopower has people in society (felons in jail) but out of society (can not vote in society). A state with biopower is the most evil state, for it can do what it wants with the homosacar (the felon in this case) without facing punishment. In other words, if my opponent's observation is held true, then the democracy becomes a biopower that can kill felons and face no punishments. The best paradigm of a biopower is Nazi Germany in the holocaust. This is obviously bad. Therefore, felons should not be ejected from society but still put in jail.

Now onto my Contention 1a and 2a.
By opponent says they are contradictory, but they aren't. In 1a, I argue that felons can not influence an election that is for something obviously good to society. If bill A is proven to help society, then most if not all of society will vote for it. Therefore, giving felons the right to vote will have no effect on the outcome. So no harm is done to society. In 2a, on the other hand, I discuss a close election, where bill B is not proven to help society. It may be an appropriations bill that will give money to prisons. A good portion of society would not care the state of prisons. Felons would. In this instance, the election would be close, and felons voting would have a greater impact. The democracy not represents the people better, and society is bettered. So my contention 1a and 2a serve to prove that felon voting has no harms, but has some benefits.

My opponent did mention that people do not vote on bills. Then let's call the propositions that people DO vote on. It doesn't matter what they are called. One more point to add, however, is that voting for elected officials that vote on your behalf is a republic, not a democracy.

My opponent has no attacks on why felons out of jail should vote, so they automatically extends towards the pro side.

I will end with some crystalization:
On the value debate, equality is needed for democracy, justice (as my opponent defines) is needed for communism. Since we are debating a democracy, we must default to my value of equality. Both our VC's measure the same thing, so they do not need to be debated. My opponent and I are trying to weigh the societal benefits of felons voting over the societal harms. I have given arguments to why felons voting will have no harm (C1a and C1b). I have also given arguments to why felons voting will have benefits (C2a and C2b). My opponent gives no reason to why felons voting is hamrful or why felons not voting is beneficial. The judges have 4 reasons to vote pro as of now, and 0 to vote con.
Debate Round No. 2


Ok. I will first reattack my opponents case/his defense of my attacks. Then go through some key voter issues and show why each of these swings in favor of the Negative side.
So with the Values/Value Criterion.
Sorry I though my opponents value was Equality in the broad sense of the term, not specifically political equality. I completely agree with my opponent, that political equality is important in a democratic society and everyones votes in society have to be held equally. Actually let me rephrase that, everyone should have the equal opportunity to vote. And felons did have the equal opportunity to vote, until they violated societies rights. Now the question is do felons belong to society? I will get back to this later I would first like to answer his attacks on my Value. My opponents attack on my value was that it was not topical, and that justice is the foundation of communism. However that is not the case. I have 3 responses to this
1- He said that justice is contradictory to democracy because a knowlegable voter deserves to vote more than an ignorant voter. This might be the case in some societies, but not DEMOCRATIC societies were everyone IN society is "due" the equal opportunity to vote.
2- He said that justice lead to communism. This is not true. Infact because communism is based off the belief that everyone is equal, and everyone is given equal property, equal pay... Take China for example, while China is not communist because communism requires the cooperation of the entire world and all other countries to be communist, it is commonly refered to as communist, and probably the closest thing we have to communism. Everyone in China is given equal everything.
3- A democracy must uphold justice. If it does not chaos ensues. You cannot allow a murderor to run around society killing people. Because he is a murderor he is no longer due the right to liberty, and in order to protect society, liberty must be taken away.
Justice must be valued over equality in this debate because as I have said before equality of any kind only exists as long as people believe they are equal. Felons who have murdered/raped/and commited heinous crimes against society don't abide by societies laws and should not be given the benefits of belonging to society. The way in which we ensure that people believe they are equal is by upholding justice. If you are the President of the U.S. and you kill someone, you are due no more or no less than the punishment given to a stoner who commits the same crime. Removing a felon's right to vote is one way in which society send the message that commiting a serious crime will have a serios consequence regardless of who they are.
As for his observation 1
There's really no point in bring it up now because I don't really believe I've broken any of them, but if I have and my opponent brings it up, I will have no way to defend myself, as his rebuttal will be the last one.
As for his observation 2
What we have to ask ourselves in this debate is not whether or not felons should be able to vote, It is whether or not felons should RETAIN the right to vote. So lets take that felon from 1960, it's true he is still a felon in 2008, but he might be able to vote because(lets say he was imprisoned for 10 years) during those ten years he did not keep the right to vote, and therefore did not retain them, he did however regain the right to vote. A felon is still a felon regardless of whether or not that felon has the right to vote. The right to vote and being a felon are two completely different things, you can have someone who commits a felony but is able to vote be considered a felon as you can have someone who commits a felony who doesn't have the right to vote be considered a felon. Secondly I do not have to advocate that felons loose the right to vote forever, I have to advocate that they should loose their right to vote for a period of time because that would mean that that felon did not retain the the right to vote which would still be negating the resolution, which is the burden on the Negative side.
Observation 3
Yes of course felons don't deserve the right to vote. They have commited a heinous crime against society, they have voilated rights. A felony isn't some petty misdeameanor, it is
Murder/Rape/Assualt/Fraud/Treason/Embezzlement/Grand theft. They have shown that their judgement is flawed and if they cannot govern their own lives without violating society, they cannot be expected to govern society. In fact felons are law breakers, and therefore they can have no hand in making the laws the rest of society abides by. When you hold a ballot in your hand, you hold the fate of your entire country in you hand. Now ask yourselves this do we really want a felon, someone who has shown that their judgement is so flawed to the extent they have voilated societies right, to hold your fate in their hands?
Observation 4
Yes commiting a crime does remove you from society to a certain extent. But it does not create a biopower. For example are non-citizens part of our society? Not really. Are we going to be able to kill them without facing repercussions? No. Or children. are they in society? yes (meaning they live in society) but are they out of society(can they vote?)No. Are we going to kill them without facing repercussions? No. So removing a felon from society for a certain period of time, does not create a biopower. Furthermore during the holocaust the races who were being oppressed did nothing to provoke their removal from society, whereas felons have violated societies rights have made that choice to remove themselves from society.
Now to 1a and 2a
My opponent seems to be thinking that everyone out there is perfect(obviously not true otherwise we wouldn't have felons) and they will automatically vote for whatever is good for society. Lets say we are voting on a preposition to outlaw the manufacturing of tobacco. Are tobacco companies going to be happy? Are they/ or anyone affiliated with tobacco(i.e smokers, employees...) going to vote for this proposition? No Is it obviously for the good of society? Yes. In fact what is good is different to a lot of people, and the outcome of an election can change if felons vote because EVERY vote matters.
Felon voting does have harms, it would basically lessan the severity of commiting a felony, because the punishment would not be as severe. It would allow people who have no respect for society, and who have shown a blatant disregard for societies laws to have a hand in making those laws.
Democracy-Government by the people; that form of government in which the sovereign power resides in the people as a whole, and is exercised either directly by them (as in the small republics of antiquity) or BY OFFICERS ELECTED BY THEM.(OED) Therefore a democracy does exist if it has elected officials voting on your behalf. P.S. OED stand for Oxford English Dictionary, just FYI.
Again with the felons out of jail voting. Negating the resolution doesn't mean that all felons can't vote. It means that all felons should lose their right to vote for a certain period of time. My opponent seems to want to force me to say that Felons should lose the right to vote indefinitely. But that is not what I am saying. I am saying felons should not retain the right to vote. There is a difference.
Now for some voter issues.
Will allowing felons to vote harm society?
Yes as I have already said felons believe they are above society, and felons do not abide by societies laws.
Should people who believe themselves above society vote?
No, a democratic society is run by the people in society. For example children aren't allowed to vote beacuse most of them don't pay taxes, and they son't really contribute to society. They can't serve in the army, and they are held to a different regard than the rest of the people in society.
Actually I have 89 letters left, so because I have negated all my opponents points, I urge for a Neg Vote


cto09 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
No comments have been posted on this debate.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by HempforVictory 9 years ago
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Total points awarded:05