The Instigator
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7 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
14 Points

RES: In a democratic society, felons ought to retain the right to vote.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/4/2009 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 894 times Debate No: 6410
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (1)
Votes (3)




LD style:

I affirm the resolution that "In a democratic society, felons ought to retain the right to vote."

To aid in the debate, I offer the following definitions:
The US Department of State defines a democratic society as governed by "majority rule coupled with guarantees of individual human rights that, in turn, serve to protect the rights of minorities –whether ethnic, religious, or political."
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a felon as a person who has committed a grave crime, with greater weight than a misdemeanor, whose punishment can result in imprisonment or death, either incarcerated or free.
For this resolution, we should maintain that felons retain their label as a felon, even after being released from prison.
Merriam Webster defined to retain as to keep in possession or use.

My core value for today's debate is justice. Justice, as defined by Plato, is "giving each their due". A democratic society has always been a society that rules by the will of the majority, but also takes the incentive to recognize the wants and needs or minorities in society as well. While felons have committed a crime against the wills of the society they live in and should be punished by incarceration, additionally taking away the right to vote is unjust because it takes away the felon's due right as a citizen to vote. It also takes away their protection of individual rights. In order for a democratic society to function, justice needs to be upheld because it makes sure each person's due, or unalienable rights, as a citizen are maintained.

My value criterion is protection of individual rights. The only way to be truly fair in a democratic society is to protect individual rights. Otherwise, each member of society would not have the freedom to express his or her opinion against the majority or minority. The protection of individual rights, especially of minorities, is so crucial in a democratic society because it balances out the seeming disparity between the effects of the differing opinions of the majority and the minority. Ayn Rand, a 20th century novelist and philosopher, coined the philosophy of objectivism, which allows the "manipulation of nature as long as the rights of others aren't infringed" and that people should always hold their own"rational self-interests" above the rights of others. By protecting individual rights, we are insurin that the soicety is just by giving each citizen their right to vote as their "due".

Contention 1: A democratic society depends on the equal protection of rights of all.

Aristotle, in his theory of politics, defined a ‘democratic society' as a group of citizens that holds the freedom and protection of individual rights of each citizen above all other freedoms. Otherwise, an ideal democracy would turn into an autocracy, according to Aristotle. Specifically, both the definition provided from the US Department of State and Aristotle held hat minority rights should always be protected in a society that governs under majority rule. ‘Minorities', traditionally applied to ethnicity, race or gender, can also be interpreted that felons are a minority in most democratic societies because of their smaller relative population. Felons, though they have committed grave and sometimes unpardonable crimes, are still valid citizens in the society because they remain members of the democratic state, whether incarcerated or not. By upholding justice, it is fair to imprison felons because thye have committed a crime that has severely and negatively impacted society. However, it isn't just for the felons to be stripped of their unalienable, individual right to vote. By maintaining the protection of individual rights of all citizens, including minorities like felons, we can better achieve justice.
According to the Washington Post in October of 2008, approximately 4.7 million people won't be able to vote because of their felony records, according to state laws, in the US November 2008 election. This includes not only inmates, but parolees and even those felons who are off parole and relatively "free". By barring these felons and ex-felons we are not protecting the interests or wants of a minority group.
By keeping equal protection of rights for all citizens, regardless of whether they are in the majority or minority, we are preserving the individual rights of each citizen in society. By keeping these individual rights safe, we are ensuring fairness. As seen above, by barring felons from voting, we're excluding around 5 million potential votes from voicing their opinion, a right they should be able to retain. If they aren't able to vote, our society cannot be seen as protecting individual rights, making it unfair to felons in society to not be able to voice their opinions as minorities. By failing to protect their right to vote, the government fails to achieve justice.

Contention 2: Allowing felons to vote helps with rehabilitation
When felons are in prison, they get removed from society and isolated. However, when ex-felons, who are released from prison and in society, are still barred from voting, the feel like they are still removed from society. Everyone's conception of citizenship includes voting rights as a fundamental right, according to Christopher Uggen and Jeff Manza, sociologists at University of Minnesota and Northwestern University respectably. They claim that "if civic reintegration is a process of weaving offenders back into the social fabrics, then the restoration of voting rights [is] likely to help offenders begin to feel like citizens again and may even reduce the stigma associated with conviction". They are claiming that if felons are allowed to vote, it aids in the rehabilitation of felons into society, after being removed for some time. This will help them feel more like citizens and might remove a little of the sting and reputation that they carry around as ex-felons. A former female prisoner, when interviewed by Uggen and Manza, also related that "The loss of voting rights is part of a larger package of restrictions that confounded her efforts to become a ‘normal citizen'".
According to a report released by the US Department of Health in March of 2003, when studying the repeated offense patterns of rehabilitated felons against that of non-rehabilitated felons, it was found that felons part of a rehabilitation program were 87% less likely to return to prison that those who weren't part of the program. As asserted above, retaining the right o vote removes some of the stigma that comes with the label of ‘felon'. Voting rights could be considered as rehabilitation back into societ, and thus, the right to vote could potentially increase this rate as it promotes a ‘productive contribution to society'.
Every citizen in a democratic society has the right to feel like a part of society and a valid member. Without that feeling that they can contribute to society, it isn't fair to the felons because they are not equally treated as other citizens in society. Therefor, by failing to protect their rights to act as a normal citizen, both inside and outside a prison, revoking a felon's right to vote fails to achieve justice.
Felons should retain the right ot vote becausee it isonly JUST in a democratic society for each individual to voice their opinion and voting helps rehabilitate the felons back into society, making them feel more like apart of society. Since we are protecting individual rights by preserving citizenship and the unalienable rights that come with that citizenship, the affirmative better acheives and thus, I can only see an affirmative ballot.


I thank my opponent and am truly glad to get to do an LD debate on this topic once again. I look forward to a fun debate


I negate the resolution. Resolved: In a democratic society felons ought to retain the right to vote.

My value is Democracy. Much is said about democracy; however at the core of democracy is a system of popular sovereignty, this is what makes democracy a democracy. Democracy come from the Greek word dimokratia(english character version) meaning popular rule. Democracy is less Normative as my opponent would believe but rather descriptive of a type of government.

In order to clarify today's debate I a key definition:
Ought: used to indicate requirement or obligation in accord with duty or morality. (Wordsmyth Dictionary)

My Value criterion for this debate will be Maximization of the Peoples Will. This is a fairly straightforward idea, we must work to preserve and maximize the will of the people. By Maximizing the will of the people we uphold the principle of popular sovereignty, for, it is the will of the people that holds any democracy together.

Observation: The resolution is questioning what we are obligated to do by either duty or morals. This means that affirming is providing a blanket statement for all democracies that they are bound to felons voting. Negating merely means that we are NOT obligated to do so. This means that it could be enacted in some democracies but not all. The thesis of the negative case is that any normative absolutes limit the ability of citizens to carry out the democratic process.

Contention 1

The first clause of the resolution "in a democratic society" and the second "felons ought to retain the right to vote" are inherently contradictory. A democratic society "ought" to do nothing. A society, being democratic must have the power to decide what ought, or ought not be done. So enforcing an absolute such as the Affirmative is trying to do. Endangers the concept of popular sovereignty. By Negation we deny the Imperative enforced by the resolution and its destructive power on democracy. Let's look at the U.S. constitution. It was made to define the structure of the government and its relationship to the people. However it was made amendable, this is because the framers realized that absolutes would endanger society. In a democracy nobody can say what should or should not happen without backing by its people. If that were the case every democracy would look the same, which, plainly they are not. So because the affirmative attempts to establish dangerous absolutes the resolution ought to be negated.

Contention 2. Universal Justice
As I have stated earlier there is no right or wrong policy for a democracy as long as the people support it. So to say that it is just to allow felons to vote is making a false assumption. . I pose you with one essential question, "who's Justice is the most just?" is it Rawls justice? Or Locke's? Or some other form of Justice? Justice is in the eye of the beholder and there can be no absolute standard. Each Democracy chooses its own path because what works in one democracy may not work in another. For Example India is a democratic society but there society is controlled by a caste system in which your birth can determine what advantages you can have in your life. In the United States it is believed that everyone is to have equal opportunity. Who is to say that India is more just or less just that the united states? Justice is not decided by some great arbiter but rather by popular mandate in each individual society. Establishing a universal idea of ought or ought not would be to undermine the peoples will and in fact go over their heads to dictate policy for them. If this is done democracy ceases to exist.

Lets start with a definition my opponent gave:
My opponents definition of Democracy assumes Absolute Normative principles for ALL democracies which plainly is not true. Democracy is simply a Majority Rule system ruled by popular sovereignty.

V: My opponent gives us the value of justice and defines it platonically. you can really cross apply my arguments from my second contention here. what "the due" of each citizen is is dependent upon the society, thus justice is inadequate as a value in this debate, the on;y thing these democratic societies have in common is democracy.

VC: While Individual rights are important to any society they are not as essential as the Peoples Will. To say that disenfranchisement is a major violation of rights would be to say that say Florida is more unjust that Maine. The Former disenfranchises felons, the latter does not, each are equally democratic. Thus individual rights is inferior to my own criterion.

1st contention
Here my opponent makes the assumption that rights are categorical, which they obviously are not. Based upon the premise of this contention a society is only a democracy if every single person is allowed to vote, including newborns and people who have not registered. Democracies have always put limitations on the vote and are justified in putting more.
Children too, can be considered a demographic, or resident aliens. These people plainly should not vote and it cannot be argued they are losing their rights the same thing can be said of felons.

2nd Contention
To start out lets look at a specific section of my opponents contention it is stated that
"When felons are in prison, they get removed from society and isolated. However, when ex-felons, who are released from prison and in society, are still barred from voting, the feel like they are still removed from society."

This seems to be promoting the vote of ex-felons only. Remember the Affirmative must prove that imprisoned felons who have been "removed from society and isolated" should vote. Lets move on for a second, my opponent argues that allowing voting rights help rehabilitation, however studies done in prisons show that only 3% of felons are even registered to vote. thus the rehabilitative effect could not be as blown up as my opponent would like to believe, especially because the recidivism rates for felons, according to the U.S department of justice is 60%. Clearly felons recidivate all the time and voting does not have a positive effect.

Now lets just look at one thing my opponent claimed that I found very intresting
"it is only JUST in a democratic society for each individual to voice their opinion"
Now this creates an impossible state where justice cannot be achieve, because A) people such as children are excluded from the vote and B) many people choose not to vote. This shows that my opponents conception of justice is idealistic and impossible thus an inadequate value.

In conclusion, To enforce such a blanket statement is undemocratic thus the resolution ought to be negated. Individual rights are not violated by Felon disenfranchisement thus I can see only a vote for the negative
Debate Round No. 1


twizzler11 forfeited this round.


As My opponent forfeited technically I should win But I will give my opponent the chance to post in round three because a debate is always preferable that to a win on forfeit.
Debate Round No. 2


twizzler11 forfeited this round.


Metz forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by Metz 7 years ago
I love this resolution and am glad someone still wants to debate it....
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Vote Placed by sadolite 7 years ago
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Vote Placed by Metz 7 years ago
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