The Instigator
Pro (for)
8 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
7 Points

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: 1,407 times Debate No: 5965
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (4)
Votes (3)




I affirm the resolution "in a democratic society felons ought to retain the right to vote"
For the purposes of clarification I would like to define the following terms
Democracy-government by the people
Felon-any person who has committed a felony
Retain-to keep
All of these definitions came from the Webster's dictionary
I would now like to offer the following value of Equality
Equality is defined as the right of all people to have the same opportunity as everyone else in this case voting. Equality is essential because if you don't have equality in a democratic society then it isn't a true democracy because all people don't have the right to have a say in that society.
To accompany my value is would like to offer the criterion of Mills Marketplace of Ideas
This criterion pertains to the resolution because it states that the best or most accurate idea comes from when all people have a say in an idea. This is perfect for a democracy because it lets all people have a say in the democracy. And when the most people have a say then the best outcome happens and this is the best thing for society.
Moving on to my first contention Felons wouldn't use their votes for election fraud.
The argument that a felon would commit election fraud with his/her vote is an invalid argument for many reasons. First there aren't enough felons to significantly create a large scale fraud. Second they have no reason to. There is evidence to support this
Harvard Law Review 1 says
In their most straight forward incarnations, these two concerns have been expressed respectively, as a fear that ex-convicts might use their votes to alter the content or administration of the criminal law as a relief that the disqualification of former felons is necessary to guard against vote fraud and related election offenses. No evidence suggests that ex-felons would base their votes solely, or even partially, on candidate's positions on penal issues rather than other matters of policy and politics. Furthermore, even if ex-offenders were to base their votes on matters of criminal justice, it does not follow that their positions on these matters necessarily would be more permissive that those of the population as a whole., regardless of how they might vote on issues of crime and the administration of justice, ex-felons are unlikely to constitute more than a tiny percentage of the population, and thus are electorally insignificant.
What this means is that supporters of disenfranchisement argue that, having shown a propensity to break the law felons are more likely to violate the particular prohibition against election fraud. Whether or not this characterization holds true, however a blanket exclusion of all ex-offenders and felons in order to protect society from those who would commit electoral offenses is clearly over inclusive. Other, less restrictive means of preventing vote fraud exist.
This relates to my value because it states that since felons would not use their votes to alter the validity of the ballot box that they should have the same opportunity as everyone else.

This brings me to my second contention Disenfranchisement works against rehabilitation.
Disenfranchisement hurts felons because it takes away their right to have a say in their society. It also works against the prison systems attempts to rehabilitate the prisoners.
This claim is validated by Harvard Law Review 2 which says
Disenfranchisement of offenders simultaneously justifies and is justified by and idea that deviants are the source and embodiment of corruption, pollution, and moral turpitude: that they can and must be isolated, fenced out, and politically sterilized. As they are not we, their impurities are not ours. Self-congratulation of this sort may comfort, but does not heal. Disenfranchisement should be recognized and rejected as an atavistic, self-perpetuating reflex that serves no legitimate purpose. Disenfranchisement indisputably harms the stigmatized offender.
Disenfranchisement also shows that people have little faith in the rehabilitation attempts of the prison systems. It shows the prisoners that society thinks that they cannot be trusted to make a decision about the way that they would want to live. There is evidence to support this Harvard Law Review 3 says
The very premise of lifelong disenfranchisement, that a former offender must never again participate in the political life of the community, indicates that society has less faith in the rehabilitatative possibilities of the prison that its rhetoric might suggest. Regardless of whether the penal system can attain the goal of rehabilitation, pretending that we are doing something we are not does not advance the debate. Such pretence merely advances an illusion of enlightenment, which serves only to mask the brutal nature of the prison from those who incarcerate others.
What this means is that by disenfranchising felons we are degrading them in a society and working against rehabilitation. It also shows that people have little faith in the governmental programs in the prisons as well. This relates to my value because if you begin to work against people then you begin to separate them from the equality of the society which leads me to my third contention Disenfranchisement helps support discrimination.
When a felon has their right to vote revoked it leads to other discriminations against that felon. It is also shown that disenfranchisement is driven by racism so it is in fact discriminatory there is evidence to support this Harvard law review 4 says the notion that criminality springs solely from hopelessly different moral defectives blinds us to the social and political components of crime. As long as crime is conceived of as "their" problem rather than ours, amelioration of its causes will remain an impossible task. Legislators in states that disenfranchise offenders should consider carefully the meanings and effects of this exclusionary regulation. As a discriminatory practice based on irrational fears and destructive stereotypes, disenfranchisement has no place in an American community. Disenfranchisement is a symbol, and it is the wrong sort of symbol to legitimate in law. It is a symbol of rejection, not reconciliation; a symbol of difference, rather than commonality; a symbol of domination instead of equality. What this evidence proves is that Disenfranchisement separates felons from the rest of society by sending a symbol of domination over the felons. This relates to my value because when you have dominion in a society it can never fully reach its potential because someone's voice is always going to be left out but when you have equality then no one gets discriminated against and everyone becomes successful it is for all of these reasons that I urge an affirmative ballot thank you.


Attorney and philosopher George Brooks once said, "When someone commits a crime, he commits not just an action against the victim, but against our entire society. Protests that time served is enough, and that society should prioritize the rehabilitation and reintegration of felons should fall on deaf ears. Opponents of disenfranchisement claim that the inability to vote stymies felons' 'remittance into a law-abiding society.' Yet they neglect to explain why the tonic of voting did not curtail felons from committing crimes initially." The fact is felons have hurt society, and the privilege of suffrage must be a punishment as otherwise they will continue to hurt society. Thus I negate the resolution, and believe felons should not retain the right to vote.

Democratic Society - A society that has political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who vote directly on laws
Felon - somebody who is guilty of a felony, and serving time for one year or more
Retain - To maintain possession of
Right To Vote – A right granted to all citizens and protected by a government, which enables citizens to have power or say in government; suffrage

Highest Moral Value - Justice
Justice is defined as "giving someone what he or she is due [or deserves]." A felon has committed a crime, and deserves to be punished. Today's debate is a question of whether taking away suffrage should be a part of the punishment. Felons should be disenfranchised. I justify this based on my criterion of Justice
Value Criterion – Societal Welfare
Societal welfare is "acting in a way which uphold the good of a society as a whole." When serving justice to a society, we must consider societal welfare, as a society achieves justice (giving each citizen what he or she deserves) by making decision that benefit the welfare of a society.
My first contention will be Felon's Set the Precedence That They Have Bad Judgment by Committing a Crime. My second contention will be John Locke's Philosophy And Theory of Justice.
Contention #1 – Felon's Set the Precedence That They Have Bad Judgment by Committing a Crime
a) Felon's have hurt society; we should limit this harm by removing suffrage rights
I'm sure my opponent will agree that a citizen who has raped or murdered a fellow citizen has shown he or she has bad judgment. Thus it would hurt society to allow these people with bad judgment to vote. A November 21, 2005, Washington Times article stated that "perpetrators of serious crimes have violated the public trust and cannot be permitted to help determine the future of the communities they harmed." The fact is, there are good and bad people in all societies. Felons are bad people. They have violated another's individual rights, thus showing they had bad judgment and they no longer deserve suffrage. Disenfranchisement is the only way to uphold justice.
b) Universal Deceleration Of Human Rights
Article 29 (2) states "In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order, and the general welfare in a democratic society." Most simply, the UD of HR is saying we can justify take away a right of a citizen if he or she has hurt the welfare of society.
Contention #2 – John Locke's Philosophy And Theory of Justice
a) Who Locke Believed Has A Say In Society
Locke once said "if you don't respect the laws, then you shouldn't have a say in them." Felons show no respect for law, and should thus have no power in the formation of the law.
b) What Locke Believed Was Appropriate Punishment
Locke believed that "under certain circumstances citizens can lose even the rights they do have by nature. Someone who violates another's rights to life, liberty, and property forfeits his own rights to these things; society can legitimately punish him by removing these rights. The criminal has broken the social compact and violated the trust of his fellow citizens." Most simple, individual rights are a privilege, not a birth right. If you improve society, you keep you rights. If you harm society, you don't deserve these rights.

In conclusion, negating the resolution is a very easy thing to do. A felon has shown bas judgment by hurting society. Because they have hurt society, we must punish them in a just way. Disenfranchise is a just punishment as it aids societal welfare. I will not move on to my opponent's case.
So with this information in consideration please cast your vote in the con's side.]

Now to attack.
In your first contention you stated that there is not enough felons to cause election fraud. This is true that they are spead out enough not to cause major damage, but what if there is a close race. There are 2 example of this: In California the deciding for mayore came down to one vote. In Alaska a schoolboard official got voted in on a coin flip. Would you really want someone that went against society to choose a leader of the free world.

Your second cotention was about disenfranchisement working against rehabilitation. This is just plain retarded. Disenfranchisement has nothing to do woth rehab. 55%of all felons commit multiple crimes so rehab doesnt work anyway.

Now time for you to attack my case
Good Luck and lets make this fun.
Debate Round No. 1


Thanks to my opponent for picking up this debate and yes lets make this fun
So to begin this round i would first like to rebuild my own case and move on to attack my opponent

First i will agree with his counter definitions
My opponent didnt attack my value or standard so you can extend both these
and for that reason there is no doubt about voting aff because it means he agrees with my value of equality which says that felons should have equal rights as all citizens so this alone proves that he agrees that felons should have the same rights as felons.
Extend my standard of Mills Marketplace of ideas which also basically states that when you have the most ammount of people contibuting to an idea then the best answer arrises. Both of these reasons prove you should vote aff
He attacked my contention 1 by saying that if a vote came down to 1 vote and that deciding voter was a felon that he wouldnt want the felon to decide. Harvard Law review 1 clearly stated that "...even if ex-offenders were to base their votes on matters of criminal justice, it does not follow that their positions on these matters necessarily would be more permissive than those of he population as a whole..." What this proves is that although felons may have made a wrong choice that they may not have an opinion that is different than the general population.
He attacks my second contention by saying disenfranchisement has nothing to do with rehabilitation. I would like to offer evidence against this,
Harvard Law Review (counter 1)
Fifteen American states disenfranchise ex-felons for life. This practice, although constitutionally permissible , is an anomaly in two respects. First, it defies the trend over the past 150 years tward expansion of the franchise exempified by courts' adn legislatures' abandonment of voting restrictions based on property, race, sex, and age. Seccond, it runs counter to the modern notion, still widely expressed if not always believed, that ex-convicts can and should be reintegrated into the communityas full members of society.
What this proves is that disenfranchisement works against progression in this instance rehabilitation.
He doesnt attack my third contention Disenfranchisement helps support discrimination
and this is key because it shows that he agrees to this and this totally destroys the basis of disenfranchisement because it works against society by discriminating against members of the society.
It is for all of these reasons i urge an affirmative ballot
Now to attack my opponents case
He offers the value of justice and says that it is defined as "giving someone what he or she is due" I pose the question "Who determines what deserved punishment is?" clearly whatever answer is given is still going to be contoversial to someone in a society so my value of equality fits the situation much better.
I attack his Criterion by saying that he is harming the wefare of soceity by taking away voices in a society. When you do this then not all people have a say in the democracy and so this undermines the whole purpose of the democracy. My criterion is much better because it allows all people to have a say in society.
Contention 1.
He implys that since a felon has made one bad decision that this is a constant trend with felons. I have to say otherwise because that is a politically incorrect extreme. He also doesnt offer why or how this relates to his value or criterion. I would like to offer counter evidince aginst his claim Harvard Law review (counter 2)
Disen. is not driven by pragmatic realities or theoretical principles but rather by an atavistic and dee-rooted social need to define the boundaries of the community by stigmatizing some persons as outsiders. As a symbolic act tat perpetuates and reflects a perception of criminality as an evil, alien force, disen. manifests a misguided desire to label as "others" those who commit crimes, in order that those who are not so chracterized may gain an increased sense of their own esteem as "good" Members of the community and deny responsibility for the creation or elimination of criminal behavior.
Contention 2
He basically offers Lockes social contract to define punishment and crimes
Harvard Law review (C3)
It is hardly likely that free and informed individuals would enter into a contract in which a single failure to execute payment by one party would constitute a forfeiture of all goods previously obtained under the contract. Liberal theorists posit an individual who exists prior to and seprabel from the attachments and aspirations that she chooses. In the liveral frame work, justice consists of respecting the individual's dignity and capacity to reason, regardless of his/her choices or ends. Thus, real justice, "must permit inequalities that can be traced to the choices people have made about what kind of work to do, what kinds of risks to take, and what kind of life to lead.

It is for all these reasons that i must urge an affirmative ballot and now turn it over to my opponent

Thanks again to my opponent for picking up this debate and thanks to all the people who vote on this. Good luck and i hope this makes us both better


baseketballer forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


I dont know if my opponent has quit this debate or he just lost track of time but...
Since my opponent dropped all of my attacks and didnt attack my case this shows that you must vote aff
?have a nice day?


baseketballer forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
4 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 4 records.
Posted by Cg09 9 years ago
its clear you two are novices
Posted by sgtsledge 9 years ago
yeah this is my first debate too but I am taking debate at school so thats how i know this stuff but thanks for picking up the case
Posted by baseketballer 9 years ago
No kidding...I'm only a novice debater so I didn't know to attack your value or criterion. Also I'm not going to be very good considering this is my first debate but thanks for this oppurtunity
Posted by sgtsledge 9 years ago
Jeez haha sorry baller but i guess i like to type alot!
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by zach12 9 years ago
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Vote Placed by sgtsledge 9 years ago
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Vote Placed by baseketballer 9 years ago
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