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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: 11/8/2008 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,778 times Debate No: 5914
Debate Rounds (3)
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I negate the resolution: in a democratic society, felons ought to retain the right to vote. This resolution not only deals with the United States, but with all democratic societies in the world. Before moving on to the values, I will proceed to clarify definitions. Democracy: a form of government where the supreme power is held by the people. Felon: a person currently convicted of a felony. Felony: a serious crime (such as murder or arson). Another thing need to be clarified on is that the Negative will use the term ‘right to vote" for the sake of the debate, but the Negative does NOT agree that voting is a right. I will elaborate on this point later. Also, the Negative only considers rape and murder as felonies because these are the only crimes accepted universally.
My value premise is Democracy. This resolution deals with a democratic society, therefore the ultimate aim of this resolution is to be a successful democratic society. My value criterion is Fair Punishment. We can agree that fair punishment and democracy go hand in hand as both aim to make people as equal as possible and treat them in a correct manner according to their actions. Punishment of crimes is necessary in a society in order to keep a safe and stable society. Fair Punishment is a punishment that is fit for the crime committed and it tries to keep the punishment and crime as equal as possible. It is a fair punishment to strip the "right to vote" from individuals because they have acted in a manner that has been counter productive to society and ultimately, hurt the government that they would have the power to change, if they had the right to vote. A democracy aims to benefit the society rather than benefit the individual. Democracy is a form of government first recorded in Athens by the Greeks. Pericles, a great leader of Athens once said about democracy, "Its administration favors the many instead of the few; this is why it is called a democracy. " This just goes to prove that a democracy gives power to the majority, regardless of an individual standing up against the ideas of that majority. Therefore, a democracy aims to benefit society rather than the individual.
My first contention is that felons should not be given the power to make decisions that would ultimately make laws, when they themselves have already proven to society that they do not respect the laws. Therefore the right to vote can be forfeited because they themselves have already shown they have no respect for the law that they would be helping to create if they did in fact vote. A felon has already shown to everyone his disrespect and contempt for the laws. When a felon breaks a law, he is telling the world that he disregards any law put upon him and values his absolute freedom over the limitations that would help preserve society. Through this statement, we can agree that a felon disregards the preservation of society. As Francis Marini (a member of the Massachusetts state house) asked, "We incarcerate people and we take away their right to run their own lives and leave them with the ability to influence how we run our lives?" [End Quote] Would we let a citizen of Mexico vote for laws in the United States? This is exactly what we are doing when we allow felons to vote. Felons are outsiders, enemies of society, who ultimately care for themselves over everyone else. It is fair that we take away the right to vote to help preserve society. Therefore, felon disenfranchisement is fair in the way that we took away the right, that they have shown that they do not care about the effects of that right anyway.
My second contention is that voting is not a right, but a privilege. We do not let all people, unconditionally vote. There are certain qualifications needed. First, you need to be a citizen of the society, and you need to be a certain age. Some may view this as obvious and irrelevant, but by requiring people to be citizens and of a certain age, it is already limiting the amount of people who can vote. If a resident of a democratic society can't vote because of lack of citizenship, does this mean they do not have to abide by the rules of the society? It is required that they DO abide by the laws, but it is not required that they must have the right to vote. There are qualification tests involved in becoming a citizen of a society. This is another method that is used to see if people deserve the chance to vote or not. In certain cases, if courts determine mentally handicapped people to be "adjudged incompetent" we do not allow them to vote either. It is clear that through these examples, we can see the prerequisites involved before you can vote. These people are not allowed to vote because it is agreed upon that they may not have the best interests of the society in mind. This concept can be applied to felons also. Therefore, we can agree that voting is in fact a privilege. When we take away the right to vote from a felon, we let other people in the society know that they must not commit felonies, or risk having their right to vote taken away. This goes back to my value criterion of fair punishment, because we are not violating a right when we strip felons of the right to vote. Rather, we take away a privilege given to them if they agree to abide by the laws of society.


I accept this argument with the caveat that I have not done Lincoln Douglas style debate in years (since high school) and I am a parliamentary debater on APDA right now, so my style may be a little more focused on practicality and big impacts than individual quotes.

First of all, I would like to challenge a few brief definitions. I suggest we only focus on the united states at the moment for two major reasons. It is the legal code we are most familiar with, and it is one of the only large countries to still use the felony/misdemeanors distinction. Most common law countries and therefore democracies that have legal codes we could debate otherwise, now distinguish between summary and indictable offenses which are different categorizations. Felonies are also not just rape or murder but any crime viewed as deserving a substantial jail time of over one year.

"Crimes commonly considered to be felonies include, but are not limited to: aggravated assault and/or battery, arson, burglary, illegal drug abuse/sales, embezzlement, grand theft, treason, espionage, racketeering, robbery, murder, rape, kidnapping and fraud." (Wikipedia)
The U.S criminal code also categorizes anything with a jail time "of less than five years but more than one year," as a Class E felony.

This definition is important because it shows that not only rapists and murderers are affected by this distinction.

I will accept your value premise as I agree democracy is most fundamental and resolution in this round.

My criterion is similar but as I feel your notion of fair punishment was ill defined I will take the time to define my terms.

Fair Punishment: Meeting the purposes of punishment and establishing a legal/prison system that leads to the best social results.

The purposes of punishment widely include

1. Incapacitation: A felon in prison cannot commit crimes while imprisoned. An executed felon cannot commit a crime ever again.
2. Deterrence: The threat of punishment deters people from engaging in illegal acts.

3. Restitution: The felon is required to take some action to at least partially return the victim to the status quo ante.

4. Retribution: The felon harmed society; therefore society (or the direct victims) is entitled to inflict harm in return.

5. Rehabilitation: The punishment changes the felon in order to make him a better citizen afterwards. (The punishment can include mandatory vocational training, counseling, drug treatment, etc.)

I will show that the con's argument only at best meets a weak sense of deterrence and why rehabilitation is far more important in a democracy on the whole.

My first argument is that Prison is meant to be the way that criminals pay their debt to society.

When someone goes to prison, this already provides the retributive and incapacitive sense of punishment. Individuals are taken away from their lives and livelihoods and their control of their fate is denied.

Ideally, we also already provide a sense of deterrence as we believe that rational criminals fear that their ability to live and provide be taken away.

Democratic rights are something fundamentally different in that taking them away does not provide a true sense of deterrance unlikely what my opponent suggest. We are born in a democratic society with the notion that we have a RIGHT to vote. For instance, we have the "voting rights act," constitutional amendments stating that voting is an inherent right for all citizens. We have an expectation of a right to vote that stands regardless of our actions. It is therefore that voting as a deterrence is uninternalizable. This means we can not rationally weigh the consequences of a loss of a vote as we can the loss of freedoms in prison. The loss of a vote can not be understood until one enters emerges into the world after prison and attempts to regain and notion of civic belonging and membership.

2) Voting is necessary for cohesive rehabilitation

Retaining the right to vote is instead one of those things that can be viewed as necessary for a cohesive and successful rehabilitation. We help people to realize the wrongs of their actions, allow them to fully serve the punishment they have earned and then try to facilitate their full return to society. Denying voting rights is one of those things that forever stigmatizes an individual well after they have already served their terms. It sets aside a group as an other and makes them unable to be fully active and engaged members in society. It sets a message that while we no longer are putting them in prison, they can never fully make up or be restuitive for their actions. In contrast, only side pro can allow felons to fully make up for their civic wrongs by in contrary living the rest of their lives as active and involved citizens.

3) Punishment in a democracy ultimately should serve the notion of citizenship and responsibility rather than be capricious.

Punishment in a democracy does not mean that we should capriciously punish individuals beyond their due. Instead, it is to instill a sense of responsibility and consequences for actions and to whenever possible allow individuals to learn and move on from their encounter with the justice system. While felons have committed a wrong, we should not categorize them as a felon as a life long stigma or noose around their neck. Instead, we should have trust that our system provides adequate punishments and rehabilitative mechanisms to allow them to be integrated. The ultimate purpose in a democracy must be the creation of a class of responsible citizens.

I will further elaborate on all of these points in my response.

I have already established on a civic sense that voting is a "right" in the sense that we grow up with an expectation of it as our birthright in a free nation. As congress member Jesse Jackson Jr. has stated ""The vote" is a human right. It is seen as an American right. In a democracy there is nothing more fundamental than having the right to vote." Inherant to the notion of democracy is that participation to the demos is the essential ingredient of citizenship. We may briefly stop individuals from voting while they are in prison and may as my opponent has suggested halt those who can not participate for purposes of competence from voting. But there is a clear difference once an individual has served his or her prison term and released into society. We expect these individuals to get involved in society and to reintegrate fully as competent individuals. The key thing is that we limit voting based on limited characteristics but can not group people into a whole class of ineligible voters merely because of past actions. Age similarly is a limited block on voting similar to restoring franchise once a certain point of restitution is reached for prisoners. I have already shown that voting is non internalizable and so individuals have not knowing forfeited this claim. Nothing the con has provided suggests this is right.

Breaking laws does not inherently suggest a disregard for law.

Side con is essentially disregarding all notions of civic or social disobedience. These are violations of law explicitly committed to make a social point about the injustice of law. We tend to view individuals such as those in the civil rights movement as heroes and patriots for their violations of unjust laws.

Moreover, those who have committed felonies often have a greater interest after prison in how laws truly effect every facet of their lives. They are more likely to appreciate the need for such things as prison reforms. The experience itself can transform them into civic conscious individuals. We should not as I've already stated pretend that felon is an immutable and permanent characteristic that means that an individual is inherantly unworthy. It merely reflects a wrong action on an individual part. An individual who through prison time already paid his debt to society. Democracy is best served by
Debate Round No. 1


Ah sorry...Can't handle two debates at the same time. :[ I apologize for wasting your time.


symphonyofdissent forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


el.edward512 forfeited this round.


symphonyofdissent forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
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