The Instigator
RoyLatham
Pro (for)
Winning
6 Points
The Contender
taco-hold
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

In a democratic society felons ought to be denied the right to vote.

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 1 vote the winner is...
RoyLatham
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 2/19/2009 Category: Society
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,073 times Debate No: 6997
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (3)
Votes (1)

 

RoyLatham

Pro

Voting is a right, but not an unconstrained one. The right to vote is not granted to those under the age of eighteen. That age limitation demonstrates that voting rights may be restricted when there is reason to doubt the potential voter's good judgment. Resident aliens are excluded from voting on the grounds that their interests are not necessarily coincident with the interests of ordinary citizens. Convicted felons are another class of citizens whose judgment is reasonably called into question. The interests of convicted felons are likely to be contrary to the interests of citizens as a whole, who want to be protected from criminals.

The U.S. Constitution does not grant individual citizens the right to vote for president. The electors for the President are determined by state legislators *by any means*; Clearly, the Constitution does not make voting in a preeminent right. The Constitution defines a republic, which generally subordinates the right to vote upon legislation to voting for legislators. There are clauses granting equal rights based based upon race and religion, and equal voting rights based upon gender, but there is nothing that prevents voting restrictions based upon other criteria.

Non-citizens are also excluded from voting. That is because the interests of non-citizens are likely to diverge from those of citizens on some important issues. The argument that the interests of criminals diverges from that of ordinary citizens is stronger than that for non-citizens. Convicted criminals have demonstrated where their interests lie, but for non-citizens it is only a reasonable supposition.

Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall claimed that once a prison sentence is served, that felons have "fully paid their debt to society" [1] However, being a jurist qualifies one to interpret laws, not to make them. Whether or not felons have fully paid there debt is a matter to be determined by law, and ultimately of the values of society as reflected in the lawmaking processes. For example, convicted sex offenders must register with the government and are restricted from certain interactions with children. The "three strikes and you are out" laws identify career criminals and remove them from society. The justification for both sex-offender registration and "three strikes" is that convicted felons are more likely to commit additional crimes than persons without a criminal record.

One can argue what the correct level of continuing debt to society ought to be, but the fact that convicted felons are more likely to commit crimes is unquestionable. The U.S. Bureau of Justice reports that "over two-thirds of released prisoners were rearrested within three years" [2]. Note that the two-thirds only reflects released felons who where caught within three years. It does not count those who committed crimes but were not arrested. Overall, only about 45 percent of violent crimes are solved, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Statistics [3] Factoring in the criminals not caught, we may reasonably suppose that the true recidivism rate is in the neighborhood of 85 or 90 percent.

Because recidivism rates are so high, the debt to society at the heart of this issue is not with respect to serving a sentence for a particular crime, it is in having adopted a criminal lifestyle. The convicted felon ought to have the obligation of establishing that his interests have become aligned with those of ordinary citizens and contrary to those with a criminal lifestyle. For example, that might be established after ten years without an arrest for a felony. It is not established by release from prison.

Only eight states currently prohibit convicted felons from voting for life. Two states (Vermont and Maine) permit felons to vote while in prison. Thirty-three states remove the franchise while convicted felons are on parole. Thus even if one accepts Thurgood Marshall's argument that voting rights should be restored after felons have paid their debt, it is not mainly about criminals who have done so. The issue is mainly about criminals who are in prison or on parole and have not paid their debt.

Criminal rights advocates claims that in the 2000 election in Florida, that felons would likely have swayed the presidential election to John Kerry and away from George Bush. They claim that preventing that was undemocratic. There is no doubt that in a close elections the votes of those with an established criminal lifestyle voting for someone they feel to be in their interests could determine the outcome of an election. That, however, is a powerful argument that justice demands that election not be determined by such people.

Criminal rights advocates claim that fencing off a certain voter demographic is a fundamentally unjust principle. In reality, it depends upon the reason for fencing off the demographic. People under the age of 18 are fenced off on the reasonable grounds that in general they lack the knowledge and experience to cast an informed vote. Note that this is done despite some seventeen-year-olds being more informed than some citizens who are fifty or sixty. The fencing off is justified because the odds are so heavily against it. Similarly, not all convicted felons remains committed to the criminal lifestyle. But with about 85% recidivism, the odds are much against it. Therefore, it is reasonable and just to identify the demographic and exclude them.

Convicted felons are an identifiable target for politicians, who can seek votes by making various promises to tilt the justice system in favor of criminals. Politicians are clever enough not to go to prisons to make the appeal directly, as that would alienate other voters. They would use surrogates who espouse "improving" the justice system by weakening it. Even if no targeted appeal were made, criminals would figure out for themselves which candidate was most likely to facilitate their criminal lifestyle.

Crime victims are also an identifiable demographic. However, victims are less likely to vote based upon the single issue of weakening the justice system. For example, victims are citizens who worry about the health of the general economy because a good economy facilitates their making a living. A criminal lifestyle, however, is only facilitated by weakening the justice system.

The issue has frequently posed as one in which removing the right to vote is either punishment or retribution. This a false dichotomy. A completely separate reason for imprisoning criminals is to keep them from doing further harm. That is why convicted felons should not be allowed to vote. We should not want people whose primary interest is in pursuing a criminal lifestyle determining the outcome of close elections.

1. http://faculty.maxwell.syr.edu... Richardson v. Ramerez, in which three ex-felons sued to restore their voter registration. The applicants lost the case.

2. Bureau of Justice, http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov... Recidivism

3. http://www.ncpa.org... National Center for Policy Analysis, Violent Crime Clearance Rate http://www.ncpa.org...
taco-hold

Con

Thank you Roylatham for being the first person to debate me on debate.org.

"The liberty of the individual is a necessary postulate of human progress." It is because I agree with this quote by Ernest Renar; that I am in favor of a negation on the resolution: "In a democratic society felons ought to be denied the right to vote."
for this round my value will be democracy. And upholding my value of democracy will be my criterion of equality. For clarity I would like to define the following terms from my case:

Vote: a formal expression of choice.
Felon: one who has committed a felony.
Equality: evenly balanced.
Democracy: a government by the people as so governed.

because my opponent didn't offer any definitions my definitions will be the ones that stand for this debate.

Before I go on I would like to explain the thesis of my case: it's that if you take out votes in an election it would be undemocratic, and contradicting of a democracy.

This was once stated by Paul Ricoeur "the law is one aspect of a much more concrete and encompassing relation, then the relation between commanding and obeying." Where Ricoeur says law I would like to place the law of democracy. So basically even though felons have committed felonies, we must uphold a democracy with equality, by letting the whole democratic society vote. Ricoeurs quote links to my first contention: the practice of disenfranchising would erode the foundational principle of our democratic society. Clearly there exists no standing relationship between disenfranchising and a criminal act. Like I stated in my definition of democracy it's a "a government by the people as so governed." Meaning for the democracy to effetely work every person must have a voice in the vote. In the resolution it clearly states "democratic society". The "democratic society" is looked upon as a whole; one can't take out individuals from the vote and still think they have the whole "democratic society." My impact for this contention is only with the whole "democratic society" could we get the fair decision in an election.

my oppenet argues that "age limitation demonstrates that voting rights may be restricted when there is reason to doubt the potential voter's good judgment." this is true but the fact of the matter is we are speaking on felons, he goes on to say "convicted felons are likely to be contrary to the interests of citizens as a whole who want to be protected from criminals." I agree that it is contrary to citizens interests, but only in the "whole" that in presented in my case "democratic society". It is contrary like he said on interests because we are not respecting the "democratic society" that the resolution is talking about.

my opened trays to bring in the U.S. Constitution by saying it "does not grant individual citizens the right to vote for president." the thing is the resolution states democratic society. it does not state one certain democratic society such as the U.S. so this argument can be dropped.

William Shakespeare once said: "if you prick felons, do they not bleed? If you tickle them, do they not laugh? If you poison them, do they not die?" When felons leave prison there released back into the society, and thus still affected by it. All people of the "democratic society" are all still citizens. There still affected by whatever congress or the government passes, so denying them the right to vote wouldn't't be equal. If it said all men were created equal then why are felons disenfranchised? Once again felons are affected by the society because 1: they pay taxes and 2: they can buy government owned property like everyone else.

he also argues that non-citizens are also excluded from voting, this is true but it is a non topical argument because it doesn't pertain to the resolution stating "felons."

he says "The convicted felon ought to have the obligation of establishing that his interests have become aligned with those of ordinary citizens and contrary to those with a criminal lifestyle." but what is the difference between felons and citizens, aren't the both citizens?

now my opponent brings up the fact that felons commit felonies again. but does committing a crime and taking the right to vote away connect? by this I mean: why should we take away the right to vote if the committing of a crime doesn't affect voting?

my oppenet brings up the U.S a lot in his case but as already pointed out the resolution doest acclaim say the "U.S democratic society" by saying only two U.S states let felons vote (Vermont and Maine).

my oppent states that "Convicted felons are an identifiable target for politicians", this argument cant be upheld or proven true, because there is no evidence to prove this claim. he also says "Criminal rights advocates claims that in the 2000 election in Florida, that felons would likely have swayed the presidential election to John Kerry and away from George Bush. They claim that preventing that was undemocratic." there was no reason to put that in his case because it only hurts the PRO. by proving that taking out votes is undemocratic.

as we can clearly see if we vote for the PRO. we will be punishing criminals twice by taking away the right to vote and by making them serve a sentence.

he states that letting felons vote will hurt our economy and justice system. this is not true because there are such felonies that are minor such as J-walking and repeated speeding. in contrary it doesn't hurt the justice system, it stegthens it for the chance to let the system work and take a shot at prosecuting it.,

I do agree with this sentence in his case "A completely separate reason for imprisoning criminals is to keep them from doing further harm." but even though they have committed felonies and there in prison they should have the right to vote in the "democratic society".
Debate Round No. 1
RoyLatham

Pro

1. Under LD debate rules, the definitions have to be made at the outset. However, this is not a debate under LD rules. For a debate.org debate to be made under LD rules, the proponent has to declare that unambiguously in the challenge. That was not done in this case. There are also LD rules pertaining to officially declaring and challenging values and value criteria. Those rules do not apply either. It is free form debate, the intellectual equivalent of a cage match. However, there is no escape from semantics, logic, and verification of facts. Those are inherent to debate.

2. I don't have a problem with Con's definitions as far as they go. The meaning of "democratic" is separately contested below. I also dispute Con's definition of "felony." Note that we are only dealing with convicted felons. Felons who haven't been convicted retain the right to vote.

3. I reject Con's thesis that the pre�minent value at issue is or ought to be democracy. The value at issue is and ought to be good government. If democracy were the pre�minent value, then the Founders would have specified a democracy in the Constitution rather than a republic. Moreover, if democracy were the most important thing, then non-citizens and even small children would be afforded the right to vote. We have a republic, and we restrict voting in the interests of good government. All democratic governments do the same, all in the interests of good government.

4. I challenge Con to say whether or not he favors extending the vote in all elections to non-citizens and small children? If he does not, then I challenge him to explain the principle at work that he uses to override the extension of democracy.

5. Con asserts, "Clearly there exists no standing relationship between disenfranchising and a criminal act." This assertion is false, because there is clear data that convicted felons are likely to continue exercising poor judgment by continuing to commit criminal acts. The primary interest of career criminals when voting is to undermine the justice system, and therefore that is good reason to withhold voting rights.

It is true that some convicted felons will reform and vote according to the general interests of American society. It is also true that some non-citizens and some under-age citizens will exercise the judgment to vote along with the general interests of American society as a whole. The exclusion of those classes of voters is based upon the considerable probability that they will not. The case is as strong or stronger that a convicted felon will not vote with the interests of society considered in the way that non-felons will consider them. Felons can be relied upon to vote overwhelmingly to undermine the justice system.

6. Con rebuts "the thing is the resolution states democratic society. it does not state one certain democratic society such as the U.S. so this argument can be dropped." So can a society be "democratic" without being a strict democracy in which everyone votes and every law is put to a direct vote of the people? The definition of "democratic" is http://www.answers.com...

1. Of, characterized by, or advocating democracy: democratic government; a democratic union.
2. Of or for the people in general; popular: a democratic movement; democratic art forms.
3. Believing in or practicing social equality: "a proper democratic scorn for bloated dukes and lords" (George du Maurier).

A government need not be a strict democracy, as Con supposes, to be characterized by democracy. None of the definitions support Con's strict definition. Moreover, if Con's definition were accepted, then people would truthfully say things like, "There are no democratic governments anywhere in the world." The opposite is quite clear, people recognize that many governments are characterized by democracy without being the strict democracies that Con supposes.

7. Con asks, "If it [is] said all men were created equal then why are felons disenfranchised?" The short answer is that they may have been created equal, but felons went astray after their creation, and their demonstrated lack of judgment resulted in their disenfranchisement. The long answer is that the quoted "created equal" is in the Declaration of Independence, which is not a governing document. Clarification of the implications of "created equal" lies in the Constitution. The Constitution establishes the classes under which discrimination under law is prohibited, and there is nothing that prohibits discrimination for felony conviction. If the Constitution prohibited discrimination for felony conviction, then felons could not be imprisoned. None of the other protected classes (race, religion, ethnicity) can be imprisoned solely for being a member of the class.

8. Con asks, "what is the difference between felons and citizens, aren't the both citizens?" They are both citizens, but so are small children. Citizenship alone provides no guarantee of a right to vote.

9. Con claims, "my oppent [opponent] states that 'Convicted felons are an identifiable target for politicians', this argument cant be upheld or proven true, because there is no evidence to prove this claim." It is fair in a debate to call upon the common sense of the audience (or judges). The assertion follows from (1) The main purpose of voting is that citizens may look out for their interests, (2) politicians appeal to the interests of citizens to get votes, (3) criminals have a strong interest in weakening the justice system, and therefore (4) politicians will target criminals with positions that favor weakening the justice system. There is supporting evidence from cases in Florida, cited, wherein Liberal politicians clearly believed they could win the criminal vote.

10. Con claims, "as we can clearly see if we vote for the PRO. we will be punishing criminals twice by taking away the right to vote and by making them serve a sentence." First, there is nothing wrong with punishing someone in two different ways. We punish many felons by both imprisoning them and later putting them on parole, and sometimes also making them register and wear a tracking device. Second, Con agreed that a purpose of imprisonment is not only punishment, but to prevent the criminal from doing further harm. Denying the vote is a proper and reasonable way to prevent the criminal from doing further harm by voting for candidates that promise to weaken the justice system.

11. Con asserts "he [Pro] states that letting felons vote will hurt our economy and justice system. this is not true because there are such felonies that are minor such as J-walking and repeated speeding." This is incorrect. There are three classes of crimes infractions, misdemeanors, and felonies. J-walking is an infraction. Repeated speeding is usually and infraction, but might rise to a misdemeanor depending upon the state and the circumstances. Felonies are only the most serious crimes. For example, felony drunk driving generally involves killing someone. A felony is "One of several grave crimes, such as murder, rape, or burglary, punishable by a more stringent sentence than that given for a misdemeanor." http://www.answers.com...

Summary

Con's rebuttal is an artificial construct that supposes that democracy is a supreme value that ought to trump good government. There is ample evidence that virtually no one believes that have more democracy leads to better government. To the contrary, the Founders preferred a republic, and minors and non-citizens are not allowed to vote -- all in the interests of good government. Felons have proved poor judgment and so the interests of good government should prevail.

The resolution is affirmed.
taco-hold

Con

taco-hold forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
RoyLatham

Pro

I cite Con for bad conduct in forfeiting the round. Ya gotta keep on top of it.

Arguments are continued.
taco-hold

Con

taco-hold forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by RoyLatham 7 years ago
RoyLatham
No democratic society holds democracy as a preeminent value. None, to my knowledge, allow small children and non-citizens to vote.
Posted by MTGandP 7 years ago
MTGandP
"If democracy were the preëminent value, then the Founders would have specified a democracy in the Constitution rather than a republic"
The resolution does not say "in the United States", it says "in a democratic society".
Posted by rangersfootballclub 7 years ago
rangersfootballclub
roylatham is right ,

criminals should have no right to vote , because they have broken the laws of which are made by the people you vote for , when your in jail , all you should have is your human rights like , food , water , shelter and protection no more , no luxeries and the right to vote is one of them . you have broken the laws of a society in which the vote shapes .
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by RoyLatham 7 years ago
RoyLatham
RoyLathamtaco-holdTied
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