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The Contender
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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: 11/13/2008 Category: Politics
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,944 times Debate No: 5971
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (3)
Votes (1)




Before I post my arguments, I would like to inform those who read this that I am a varsity LD Debater. Because of this, I wish to debate only someone who is/was an LD debater, and thus is familiar with the style and format of LD Debate. Thank you.
I affirm the resolution which states: In a democratic society, felons ought to retain the right to vote.
I offer the following definitions for clarity in the round:
Felon – one who has committed a felony.
Felony – a grave crime declared to be a felony by the common law or by statute regardless of the punishment actually imposed.
Democratic – of, relating to, or favoring democracy.
Society – a highly structured system of human organization for large-scale community living that normally furnishes protection, continuity, security, and a national identity for its members.

My value for today is Constitutional Right, and my criterion is Democratic Society.
I uphold to resolution through Constitutional Rights in that every Democratic Society has a Constitution of sorts, and that they must uphold their own Rights that are guaranteed in their Constitution. My Criterion links to my value in a similar way.

The Pro/Affirmative offers one Observation and three Contentions, which will be explained now.
Observation 1:
Put simply, a democratic society does not exist. However, the resolution is not asking us to debate whether or not a democratic society exists, or the possibility of such a society existing. It is asking us whether or not a felon in a democratic society should still have their right to vote. Therefore, no negative argument can possibly be made against the resolution that states that a democratic society cannot exist, and that the resolution cannot be debated because of it. Any negative argument of the sort is null.

Cont. 1) Felons retain other rights, so why not the right to vote?
NYTimesOct. 11, ‘06
Convicted felons who have served their sentence should be allowed to vote without question. Doing otherwise is practically double jeopardy and for what reason? The only reason this question is being asked is because a certain political party would sooner deny voting rights to citizens then lose elections. This is only one of many barriers being placed before American citizens that have the desire to take part in our democracy. The actual number of felons that choose to vote most likely represent a tiny fraction of the number of non-felons that have been turned away at the polls in elections since 2000.
Why is it more important to some to avoid the possibility of a single "illegitimate" vote from being cast at the cost of several registered voters losing their right to vote because their name erroneously appears on a doctored registration list?

TimeNov 1, ‘06
In 2001, Strickland postdated three checks of between $90 and $500, and then for unrelated reasons lost her job as an administrative assistant. By the time she got a new job several years later, the checks had bounced. Bad judgment? You bet. So she was hauled into court this year and, in exchange for pleading guilty to a felony and making good on the checks, allowed to stay out of prison. Now Strickland is working and paying her bills and taxes, and she wants to vote. "I always voted," she says. "My vote may be the one that counts to get the right person in office."

Cont. 2: Voting is a basic human right.
Washingtonpost.comAug 18, ‘04
To condemn millions to eternal political silence is to stab our democracy in the heart, and to provide cause for bitterness and alienation. Felons may face many other disabilities: They cannot sit on juries, serve as teachers, firefighters or -- often -- even barbers or plumbers. They cannot receive food stamps or live in public housing. Add to all this the knowledge that whatever they do, no matter how much they have changed, their voices will never be heard in the public arena. Does this sound like a prescription for more crime? It certainly undermines a basic tenet of our system of justice: that the weight of punishment is tempered with the hope of rehabilitation. And it prevents us from having a real electorate. Voting is not a privilege; it is the basic right that defines a citizen. Those denied it are, in effect, stateless -- people without a country. This is not a partisan issue, but one of basic human rights. People who have paid their debt to society should have their rights restored.
BBC NewsOct 6, ‘05
But the former inmate won his case in the Human Rights court in Strasbourg, where his lawyers successfully argued that prisoners should have the right to vote under the Convention's guarantee to the "right to free elections", the "right to free expression" and "prohibition of discrimination". And judges delivered a unanimous verdict that denying a prisoner a vote does breach the "right to free elections" set out in the Convention.

Cont 3: Allowing felons to vote increases voter turnout.
Increase voter participation by allowing felons to vote after they have served their sentences. Convicted criminals who have served their sentences have already paid their debt to society; they should be allowed to once again enjoy the full benefits and responsibilities of citizenship.
Kirotv.comOct 14, ‘08
The State of Washington never stopped sending Tracy Wilkinson ballots in the mail, even though it appears she's not eligible to vote. In 2002, she pleaded guilty to a felony prescription drug charge, then, according to court files, failed to pay all her fines. A Snohomish County judge ruled "the defendant is not entitled to restoration of civil rights or discharge" - legal speak for "you can't vote!" Wilkinson admitted to Halsne that she is a felon, but thought she could still legally vote.

The Affirmative/Pro has presented their case, and is now prepared and waiting for the Negative/Con to present theirs and argue my own.


Neg 1 (Really conservative case—no risks)
Ought: used to express obligation (Merriam-Webster)
retain: to keep (Merriam-Webster)
Observation 1: The phrase “democratic society” means compliance with democratic values. This is because a society not in compliance with democratic values is not democratic. This means that the affirmative must prove that letting felons vote is in compliance with democratic values.
Observation 2: The phrase “retain the right to vote” means that if felons ought to retain their right to vote, they ought to retain their right to vote. There is no limiting verbiage in the resolution, nothing that would allow for the suspension during their sentences but keeping that right in their back pocket until their release. The resolution unequivocally claims that while in prison and beyond, felons ought to retain the right to vote. This has a strong impact on the burdens of proof. The affirmative must prove that felons retain the right to vote while incarcerated, and after release. As the negative, all I must prove is that felons ought not to retain the right to vote while incarcerated.
Value: Justice
Justification: The purpose of a criminal law system is to give people what they deserve. Innocents get acquittals and criminals get a sentence, that’s what they deserve.
Criterion: Social Contract
Justification: The social contract is a contract between the government and its people used to govern society; the people must listen to their government, and the government must offer its people justice. This keeps the people and the government in check and creates a stable environment in which justice can exist, by means of a court system. This is where certain “government-given rights” arise. That is, some rights aren’t relevant without a government. For example, the right to petition the government is only necessary because we have a government. If we were in the philosophical “State of Nature” without any government, the right would be worthless. The same goes for the right to vote. Now, these rights come from the Social Contract, if you break the social contract, you lose these rights, as that is the nature of contracts; if you don’t uphold your part of the bargain, you lose the benefits. So the negative only has to show that a felon has violated the social contract, and therefore loses all rights.
Contention 1: Felons violate the social contract.
Obviously they do. The job of the citizen is simply to obey the government. Obviously, if the government is unjust, the government has broken the contract, so that obligation is removed, but as the resolution says “democratic society” we can assume that the government is just. Breaking laws is obviously disobeying the government, and felons disobey laws. So, obviously, they violate the social contract. If they violate the social contract, the government has no obligation to give them the social contract rights. It would be like paying your neighbor’s child twenty dollars for not mowing your lawn, and obviously that’s ridiculous.
Contention 2: If felons lose their most basic rights during incarceration, it is absurd to think that they would keep the right to vote.
When you’re in jail, you lose the right to move freely, have a job, protest, et cetera. The only rights you keep are those necessary for your survival, and at times, not even those are kept. The right to vote is a luxury compared to the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Felons lose at least two of the three rights, and sometimes even the right to life. A Massachusetts state legislative leader commented about the State's now-abolished practice of allowing incarcerated felons to vote: "It makes no sense. 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?" It is absurd to think that the right to vote would be kept when these much more important rights are lost.

I agree with all of my opponent's definitions, and as you know, offer my definition of "ought."

His value is actually okay with me. I am going to do a value turn here. The constitution rises from the social contract. It is in a sense the written words of the contract. It, along with the nation's legal code describe the benefits and obligations of the citizens and of the government. A constitution says the government can do x,y, and z, and the must do a, b, anc c, and they may never do e, f, or g. It does the same for the citizens. So, you put my criterion of the social contract under it, because a constitution is a social contract.

Again, to turn his criterion, democratic societies are founded on the social contract. A society that does not subscribe to the contract is either an anarchy or a dictatorship, so his criterion in effect is part of mine.

Ob 1: I agree with this observation.

Con. 1: "Convicted felons who have served their sentence should be allowed to vote without question" The resolution says "retain" not regain after completing the sentence, so this attack fails.

Con. 2: "To condemn millions to eternal political silence is to stab our democracy in the heart, and to provide cause for bitterness and alienation." The res. says "retain" it doesn't say "regain" Felons will oviously have all their rights restored after completion of their sentence, but not during. Do you want a prison inmate do all these things you mention?

Con. 3: This still is resting on the misconception my opponent has. His whole case is based on one misconception. You drop this as well, while in prison, they are paying off their debt, once they leave they can vote, but not until then

Conclusion: Violating the social contract means losing certain benefits of society for a period of time. This includes the right to vote, so you vote negative. I now stand ready for cross-examination.
Debate Round No. 1


Arcraetor forfeited this round.


Ethanthedebater1 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


Arcraetor forfeited this round.


This debate is still going on? Oh, well I pretty much win it.
Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by Arcraetor 9 years ago
Sorry, my reply'll take a few days. My computer's being stupid right now.
Posted by Arcraetor 9 years ago
Alright then.
Posted by Ethanthedebater1 9 years ago
I'll post my NC and rebut sometime tomorrow. I have a local tournament tomorrow, so I may not have much time.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by JBlake 9 years ago
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Total points awarded:07