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

R: Felons should have voting rights in the modern U.S.

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Voting Style: Open with Elo Restrictions Point System: Select Winner
Started: 9/28/2015 Category: Politics
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,111 times Debate No: 80158
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (18)
Votes (1)





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.

  • In 38 states and the District of Columbia, most ex-felons automatically gain the right to vote upon the completion of their sentence.
  • In some states, ex-felons must wait for a certain period of time after the completion of their sentence before rights can be restored.
  • In some states, an ex-felon must apply to have voting rights restored.”(1)

Burden of proof

As I am proposing the change to the status quo, I accept the burden of proof. I must affirm the resolution.

Debate Format

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.



I accept this debate challenge. Best of luck to my opponent!
Debate Round No. 1


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.

Ground work:

Unalienable Rights

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that 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.” (Declaration of Independence)

Unalienable: “impossible to take away or give up” (1)

We live in a society that accepts the concept that some rights are unalienable.

The Duty of Government

“That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men” (Declaration of Independence)

“Locke believed that natural rights were inalienable, and that the rule of God therefore superseded government authority;” (2)

We live in a society that requires of its government the protection and security of such rights.

The Power of the People

“Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”(Declaration of Independence)

“Rousseau believed that democracy (self-rule) was the best way of ensuring the general welfare while maintaining individual freedom under the rule of law.”(2)

We live in a society that dictates that the power of government come from the consent of the governed Via voting.

"A man without a vote is a man without protection." Lyndon B. Johnson 36th U.S. President (3)

"Voting is the most precious right of every citizen" Hillary Clinton (4)

The whole picture

We live in a society that accepts…

1: All people born equal with rights
2: Government’s function is to secure unalienable rights
3: Government receives power through the consent of the governed via voting

Contention: Harm and Solvency.

As shown in round 1 the status quo removes the right to vote from many felons.

Eric H. Holder, JD, US Attorney General, stated the following in his Feb. 11, 2014 speech.

“In many states, felony disenfranchisement laws are still on the books. And the current scope of these policies is not only too significant to ignore – it is also too unjust to tolerate…

Across this country today, an estimated 5.8 million Americans – 5. 8 million of our fellow citizens – are prohibited from voting because of current or previous felony convictions. That’s more than the individual populations of 31 U.S. states. And although well over a century has passed since post- Reconstruction states used these measures to strip African Americans of their most fundamental rights, the impact of felony disenfranchisement on modern communities of color remains both disproportionate and unacceptable…

… It is unwise, it is unjust, and it is not in keeping with our democratic values.” (5)

The harm of the status quo is clear.

It is unjust, it affects millions of Americans, it is contrary to societies values, and undermines the role of government. As Eric Holder concludes, “These laws deserve to be not only reconsidered, but repealed.” (5) Through repeal of laws that remove the right to vote we can eliminate all harms associated with them.


1: Government cannot receive legitimate power through consent of the governed if the governed cannot vote.

2: Without consent or power the government cannot secure unalienable rights

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that 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.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”( Declaration of Independence)

If the right to vote is taken away, our entire system of government cannot live up to its primary purpose. In the interest of our government filling its purpose, or in other words, securing the unalienable rights afforded to all men, it is only reasonable to conclude that Felons should have voting rights in the modern U.S.





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."[1]

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.

Debate Round No. 2


kasmic forfeited this round.


I extend all my arguments.
Debate Round No. 3


kasmic forfeited this round.


I extend all arguments. Vote Con!
Debate Round No. 4
18 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by TN05 1 year ago
Eh, things happen.
Posted by kasmic 1 year ago
I am so sorry for forfeiting. Especially as I specifically invited you to debate this.
Posted by TN05 1 year ago
Everything looks fine to me.
Posted by kasmic 1 year ago
TN05, Before you accept, please look over the length and other particulars. Let me know if you would like to change anything.
Posted by Sarra 1 year ago
ehhh how many elections would be changed if all felons voted in a block for the losing team?
Posted by V5RED 1 year ago
Fudge, I agree with pro and thus can't take the debate.
Posted by Romanii 1 year ago

Also, take out the random "R:" lol
Posted by Bob13 1 year ago
I would like to debate this with you.
Posted by TN05 1 year ago
So your proposal is that all felons should be allowed to vote? If so, I'm interested in debating.
Posted by kasmic 1 year ago
Lannan is a pretty good debater, I just finished a debate with him recently and have debated him previously.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Lexus 1 year ago
Who won the debate:-Vote Checkmark
Reasons for voting decision: Forfeiture.