R: Felons should have voting rights in the modern U.S.
So as to be as clear as possible. I am arguing that so called Felons should retain the right to vote in spite of being felons. Below is some basic information on the current circumstance in regard to the debate topic.
“The idea of taking away a criminal's right to vote has been around since ancient Greece and Rome. A condition called "civil death" in Europe involved the forfeiture of property, the loss of the right to appear in court, and a prohibition on entering into contracts, as well as the loss of voting rights. Civil death was brought to America by English colonists, but most aspects of it were eventually abolished, leaving only felon disenfranchisement intact in some parts of modern America.”(1)
“5.3 million Americans (1 in 40 adults) were unable to vote due to a felony conviction in the 2008 elections. This included 1.4 million African-American men, more than 676,000 women, and 2.1 million ex-offenders who have completed their sentences. “(1)
“State approaches to felon disenfranchisement vary tremendously. In Maine and Vermont, felons never lose their right to vote, even while they are incarcerated. In Florida, Iowa, Kentucky, and Virginia, felons and ex-felons permanently lose their right to vote, without a pardon from the governor. Virginia and Florida have supplementary programs which facilitate gubernatorial pardons. The remaining 45 states have 45 different approaches to the issue.
Burden of proof
As I am proposing the change to the status quo, I accept the burden of proof. I must affirm the resolution.
4 rounds/5,000 characters/72 hrs.
1st round: acceptance
2nd and 3rd rounds: Arguments and rebuttals
4th round: Final rebuttal and closing statements (No new arguments)
Comment if interested.
We live in a society that accepts the notion of unalienable rights. As a society we accept that the main duty of a government is to secure such rights. Such a government receives their power from the consent of the governed. In our society this is done through voting.
Before I begin, I want to thank my opponent for an interesting debate idea. Look forward to a great confrontation in round 3!
Now, my opponent's case is that felons should be able to vote; logically, this means we should restore voting rights for all felons, and that future felons would not be penalized by removing their right. My opponent bears sole BOP, which means he is responsible to prove that felons should be able to vote. If he fails to do so, or I demonstrate any situation where a felon should not be allowed to vote, I would win.
Contention 1 - Government is just, and its powers derive from society
Thomas Jefferson says it best in the Declaration of Independence, "All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness". The idea of God-given rights form the cornernstone of American justice and a key part of traditional American values. Jefferson continues: " That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed". That is, government exists to protect rights. Its powers, when derived from and held by the people, are just. This includes, by nature, the power to punish those who violate rights.
Contention 2 - Punishment consists of revoking of rights
What does punishment entail? In general, the idea in common law is that punishment should fit the crime - that is, the more severe the crime, the more severe the punishment. The most common methods of securing punishment - those society has, throughout our history, deemed most just - are through fines, community service, and imprisonment. Outside of a governmental context, these all would be crimes. If I were to forcibly take money from you, require you to work without pay, or lock you in a small room and make it impossible for you to leave, I would be arrested. But, for governments, this is fine. Why? Because when you violate the law, you forfeit rights. Essentially, by refusing to respect the rights of others, you lose some of yours.
Loss of voting privileges is just another way to punish people. It's serious nature connotes the seriousness of the crime. Roger Clegg of the Center for Equal opportunity says "It makes sense that felons should lose their right to vote. You don’t have a right to make the laws if you aren’t willing to follow them yourself. To participate in self-government, you must be willing to accept the rule of law. We don’t let everyone vote – not children, not noncitizens, not the mentally incompetent. There are certain minimum and objective standards of trustworthiness, responsibility, and commitment to our laws that we require before people are entrusted with a role in the solemn enterprise of self-government. Those who have committed serious crimes against their fellow citizens don’t meet those standards."
Contention 3 - Voting rights should only be revoked for violent criminals.
One area of common ground might be that there are many people who are felons that do no deserve that connotation. Felonies should be limited to the most serious crimes - things like arson, sex crimes (rape, child rape, incest), murder, and treason. In the past and presents, states have been too loose in regards to drug crimes. People can become felons for what should be minor drug crimes, if they should even be crimes at all. The definition of 'felon' should be reduced to violent or treasonous crimes - the most despicable and terrible of actions. It is on firm ground to say a convincted child rapist, murderer, or rapist has forfeited his right to decide laws for others through his actions. These violent criminals have rejected society and its laws, and society is well within its rights to reject them.
Contention 4 - Rights could be restored through an arbitration committee
After a felon has served their time, it might be reasonable to consider returning their right to vote. This would not be automatic - it might be handled in a similar way to how we handle parole - there might be a voting board, which would thoroughly vet the person to determine if they are truly sorry for what they have done and are committed to living by the laws of society. This would provide incentive for felons to reform - they will be accepted back into society if they are willing to accept the laws that the government of the people has made.
In short, there is nothing wrong with restricting voting rights for felons. It works with the American legal tradition, and is a reasonable way to punish those who have decided to reject the laws of society. While the definition of 'felon' might need to be smaller, and a system to allow restoration of rights might be reasonable, there is no reason a pedophile or murderer should be allowed to decide the laws of a society he plainly rejected.
kasmic forfeited this round.
I extend all my arguments.
kasmic forfeited this round.
I extend all arguments. Vote Con!