The Instigator
snelld7
Pro (for)
Winning
7 Points
The Contender
trendem
Con (against)
Losing
0 Points

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

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/22/2009 Category: Society
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,515 times Debate No: 7897
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (7)
Votes (1)

 

snelld7

Pro

Generally, PRO goes first.
However, if you accept this debate, then you forfeit your right to go second and will therefore go first (I don't feel like going first)

Felony disenfranchisement is the term used to describe the practice of prohibiting people from voting based on the fact that they have been convicted of a felony.

I stand against felon disenfranchisement, convince me otherwise [...]
trendem

Con

Cheers! I will argue that by default, felons should not have voting rights, except in some cases where they have proven themselves reformed.

------------------------DEFINITIONS--------------------------------
felony= (1) a felony as a crime which involves a potential punishment of one year or longer in prison.[1]
(2) in general, a "serious crime" [2]
felons= people who commit or have committed felony
democratic society= a society based on majority rule; a society where supreme political power lies with the people [3]
right = an abstract idea of that which is due to a person or governmental body by law or tradition or nature [4]
vote= express one's preference for a candidate or for a measure or resolution; [5]

-----------------------MAIN ARGUMENT----------------------------
First, I will mention that voting is NOT an inalienable right. In a solitary state, a human does not possess any quality that entails the right to vote. Rights to life, liberty etc. might be inalienable and follow from human nature, but the right to vote is alienable and is contingent upon society. Remember Locke's Social Contract theory? Society grants the right to vote on the promise of good behavior, and can suspend it when people break that promise.

Having established that society can curtail the right to vote, I will show society ought to curtail the felons' right to vote. There are 2 main arguments why felons don't deserve their right to vote:
(a) Punishment: A serious crime deserves a serious punishment. Being stripped of voting rights is a fitting punishment because it emphasizes that voting, which is the basis of a democratic society, is a right that is contingent on keeping the Social Contract. Only law-abiding citizens who uphold the Contract have the right to vote; felons, who have expressed contempt of their fellow citizens by breaking the law are deprived of their right to vote. In combination with being incarcerated, it impresses upon the felons the magnitude of their crimes.
(b) The integrity of voting: Ask yourself: would you want your policemen, your judges or your politicians to be elected by those who have committed atrocities such as rape? In many cases, these felons' ideal of society differs from the commoner's ideal, and we must accept this. Given their inappropriate ideals and motivations, felons should lack the right to vote.

I also realize that some felonies are accidental and/or less severe than others. There are some felons that reform. For such felons, I propose that we set up a Pardons Commission to determine whether the felons are worthy of receiving the right to vote. All felons will have the right to apply to the Commission for a hearing. This Commission might meet every quarter year, and precedent for such a Commission already exists in some USA states. This will allow the one-time criminals to retrieve their right to vote.

-------------REBUTTALS IN ADVANCE---------------
1) Some argue that the felon will undergo double punishment: after serving his jail time and fulfilling his debt to society, the felon will be made to undergo a 2nd punishment because of not being able to vote. However, this argument commits the fallacy of begging the question [6]. It assumes that the jailtime adequately punishes the felon, and that the lack of voting rights is a 2nd punishment. However, the jailtime and the lack of voting rights can be viewed as 2 parts of a single punishment. Just like drunk driving can lead to both jailing you and depriving you of your driver's license.

2) Some argue that the policy of depriviation of felon voting rights originated in the Civil War - blah blah blah. Basically, they argue that because this policy originated to promote racism or whatever, it must be bad. But this is committing the genetic fallacy. [7]

3) Some argue that the policy is racist because there are many colored felons who get stripped of rights. But, this is really a red herring. If it is a fact that more men of color are felons or something; so be it! These charges of resulting racism are irrelevant as to whether felons should have voting rights.

SOURCES
[1] http://www4.law.cornell.edu...
[2] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[3] http://en.wikipedia.org...
[4] http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu...
[5] http://wordnetweb.princeton.edu...
[6] http://www.nizkor.org...
[7] http://www.nizkor.org...
Debate Round No. 1
snelld7

Pro

"The main purposes of punishment are incapacitation and rehabilitation. Taking away the right to vote doesn't seem to accomplish either of these. It could even be detrimental, as ex-felons could see themselves as outcasts in society, causing feelings of resentment"~ Bill Clinton

"""I will argue that by default, felons should not have voting rights, except in some cases where they have proven themselves reformed."""
Woah woah woah.... If you assume this position then I will assume the position that felons should retain their voting rights, except in extreme cases. It's either you say they can't ever and I say they always can, or you say they can't unless extreme circumstances and I say they can unless extreme circumstances. There is no mixing of the two in an attempt to skew the debate towards your side. If you don't mind, I'd like you to choose which one you'd like to debate, either is ok with me.

Now Lets move onto the contentions that you've made.

I've broken them down into numbers for later clarification
1) Voting is/is not inalienable
2) Disenfranchisement is/is not suitable punishment
3) Felon disenfranchisement is essential for the preservation of integrity.

For the opening of my first point, I'd like to directly quote you.
"""First, I will mention that voting is NOT an inalienable right. In a solitary state, a human does not possess any quality that entails the right to vote. Rights to life, liberty etc. might be inalienable and follow from human nature, but the right to vote is alienable and is contingent upon society. Remember Locke's Social Contract theory?"""
1) Voting may very well not be inalienable in most societies such as monarchies and dictatorships, but in a democratic society, yes, it is inalienable. A way you can look at this is, take away what you're arguing is inalienable or not and see if the sugject being argued upon, is the same. What is a democratic society without voting? Or Better yet, is a democratic society a democratic society without the right to vote? Of course not, in seeing this, you see that it is essential top have the right to vote if you're going to have an actual democratic society.

Lets open the second voting issue with a quote from you as well.
"""A serious crime deserves a serious punishment. Being stripped of voting rights is a fitting punishment because it emphasizes that voting, which is the basis of a democratic society, is a right that is contingent on keeping the Social Contract."""

2) A serious punishment for a serious crime is the serious sentance that follows. Voting disenfranchisement generally has NOTHING to do with the crime felons commit. It is an extra unwarranted infringement upon a felon's rights. Laws are measured by how well they protect the public and how well they deter crime. How well disenfranchisement protects the public will be addressed in my next voting issue, so lets take a look at the second criteria for effective laws. How well it deters crime. While committing a crime, criminals aren't thinking in the back of their head "Oh man, I hope they don't take away my voting rights." It isn't in their minds AT ALL! People aren't afraid of losing voting rights, they're afraid of being away from loved ones for long periods of time. It basically, IS JUST THERE. Now, just being there isn't bad, if it's not doing anything. However, it is taking away million's of people's right to vote! Taking away voting rights is an infringement and cannot be justified! Committing a felony and voting are pretty much separate entities. It seems, for lack of a better description, kind of random for a society to say, "You robbed a house, so... now you can't vote."

Like before, here are your words to spark yet another problem with your stance. """The integrity of voting: Ask yourself: would you want your policemen, your judges or your politicians to be elected by those who have committed atrocities such as rape? In many cases, these felons' ideal of society differs from the commoner's ideal, and we must accept this. Given their inappropriate ideals and motivations, felons should lack the right to vote."""

3) Now this points out 2 majors problems. So I will attack them differently.

A- This problem being that you don't want felons voting because of the fact that they are felons

and

B- The fact that you have a problem with anyone voting who has ideals that differ from that of the "societal norm"

First off, with A.

A- You stating " Ask yourself: would you want your policemen, your judges or your politicians to be elected by those who have committed atrocities such as rape?" Is a pointless statement. There are too many assumptions in this sentance. First off, you're assuming taht the convicted rapist is not sorry and is still malicious. Secondly, you're under the misconceived notion that someone who has a history of rape, can vote for someone who will rape america. A killer, thief, or rapist can't vote for someone who will pass a law that will kill, steal from, or rape the american or democratic people. You've stated that voting requires that you have to reach a certain minimum which felons don't reach, but you fail to realize that laws have to reach the certain minimum. There is no harm that can come from a rapist, murderer, or thief voting because they can only vote on something that's productive for the society. After all, we let ex-convicts marry, reproduce, buy beer, own property and drive. They don't lose their freedom of religion, their right against self-incrimination or their right not to have soldiers quartered in their homes in time of war. But in many places, the assumption is that they can't be trusted to help choose our leaders [...] If we thought criminals could never be reformed, we wouldn't let them out of prison in the first place. Some basic principles of a democracy are that every citizen is given a say in society. But felons are citizens, are they not? And since they are thus forced to live and operate under a governments jurisdiction, shouldn't they have a say in decisions affecting them?

Plus, Even non-felons are capable of bad judgment. If we are disenfranchising felons simply because of a bad decision and/or bad decision-making skills, there are plenty of other people who shouldn't be allowed to vote. But who can set that standard of good decision versus bad decision in any absolute form regarding elections?

B- The fact that you don't want people with different opinions to vote, is outragious! The whole purpose of voting is to weigh all opinions! A true democracy is the expression of EVERY opinion and the weighing of each one in comparison to one's own until the best possible opinion is formulated. Only then can an opinion be validated and used in action. Voting applies directly, particularly for felons who it can be assumed will have deviant opinions, because if votes are the ultimate mode of expression and change in a democratic society, ALL opinions of anyone governed by the law created in the society is valued highly, because of the previously listed impacts. It can even work on a societal level in the sense that, the vote will be weighed and the best opinion will be chosen - the majority opinion.

The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.

I go so far as to say, that not allowing felons to vote is harming a democratic society, because the society is not weighing all opinions, and because people will not have the opportunity to consider their opinions openly.

I am anxious for my oponents arguments
trendem

Con

trendem forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
snelld7

Pro

I'm terribly sorry my opponent missed his time on the actual round. It's perfectly ok with me that you posted them into the comments portion (and I ask that voters pay absolutely no attention to that in deciding their vote).

Lets open with some refuutes on my case and then further strengthen my side of today's debate.

>>>"First off, you're assuming taht the convicted rapist is not sorry and is still malicious. Secondly, you're under the misconceived notion that someone who has a history of rape, can vote for someone who will rape america."~ Me
Yes, I might be making some assumptions. Forgive me if I give the benefit of the doubt to law-abiding citizens. How dastardly of me.~ You

--More like, "forgive me if a few million felons lose the right to vote."

>>>" There is no harm that can come from a rapist, murderer, or thief voting because they can only vote on something that's productive for the society. After all, we let ex-convicts marry, reproduce, buy beer, own property and drive. "~Me
False analogy, because the felon's decision to drink beer, get married etc. doesn't affect the rest of society.~You

--Does it matter if the felon is affecting society as long as they are affecting it in a positive manner?

>>>"If we thought criminals could never be reformed, we wouldn't let them out of prison in the first place. "~Me
They can be reformed, but I'm assuming they're not reformed, until they prove otherwise.~You

Problem, how do they get the chance if you don't give it to them? How can you say, "prove you are reformed," but then give no chance? We give prison sentances and let people out based on them being reformed. Keep in mind, when a persn committs a felony, they're ALWAYS a felon. You're saying this person should never gain the right to vote because they haven't proven they're reformed? Then why let them out of prison in the first place?

>>> "The fact that you don't want people with different opinions to vote, is outragious! The whole purpose of voting is to weigh all opinions!"~Me
Again, we already censor certain opinions that we deem immature or unfit, such as children's and mentally incompetent's. And again, the readers need to ask themself if the forgers and drug dealers are fit to decide your neighborhood's policeman.~You

--Problem here is, these people we're talking about here aren't children nor are they mentally incompetent. Another problem here is that you think they'll be choosing policeman. These people will be voting on bills, representatives, senators, presidents, etc (all of which are for our benefit). The police Acadamy picks police officers. Seeing as how these senators, bills, and representatives will affect these felons (especially the felons that are out of prison) they should give their opinion on the issue. What harm does this have on society? Absolutely none. They are still forced to obey by the law after they get out of prison and still forced to pay taxes like everyother citizen, only difference is, they have a scar in their past. Note I said their past. Meaning they've served the due punishment for their crime ALREADY. What purpose then is there to disenfranchise the felon after he's rehabilitated?

Lets take drug charges (which you speak of) for example. Now, idk the exact point where a certain ammount of drugs becomes a felony, but what makes you think someone who is a gram above the felony mark has worse judgement on voting for a president than someone who is a gram under the felony mark? Better yet, seeing as how Presidents have to meet a certain minimum to run for president (meaning there is no BAD choice), what makes you think they will be worse at picking a president then any other citizen? You must see that we are excluding these people solely on the purpose of them having a different opinion than us. Now, in an instance when these people can ACTUALLY hurt us, of course it's different, but if the worst that can happen is something that is STILL productive for society, what's the problem.

Put it this way> Lets say that there is candidate A and B for any bill, governor, president, senator, mayor, reppresentative etc.

Now, there are going to be non-felons who pick both A and B. What makes you think that if a felon picks either A or B that it will be detrimental to our society?

Voting may very well not be inalienable in most societies such as monarchies and dictatorships, but in a democratic society, yes, it is inalienable. A way you can look at this is, take away what you're arguing is inalienable or not and see if the subject being argued upon, is the same. If it is the same without the subject, it's not needed. However, if without the subjetc it is something completely different, it is essential and inalienable. What is a democratic society without voting? Or Better yet, is a democratic society a democratic society without the right to vote? Of course not, in seeing this, you see that it is essential to have the right to vote if you're going to have an actual democratic society.

I ask my opponent and audience again [...] What is a democratic society, without the right to vote?
trendem

Con

Thank you for your courtesy and for a good debate. Like promised, I shall try and summarize this debate using the famed "They say... I say" format. I shall paraphrase my opponent's arguments in their strongest formulations.

------- HE SAYS, I SAY----------

My opponent says that a democratic society that deprives any of its members of the right to vote is not a democratic society. I say that democratic societies still retain their essential character even if they remove some voting rights, as in the case of children, the insane and the jailed.

HE says that all citizens are equal and equally deserve the fundamental rights of a society. I say that citizens are created equal but distinguish themselves with their actions.

He says that the loss of the voting rights of millions of felons is a grievous loss. I say giving the benefit of the doubt to the felons of the society rather than to the law-abiding members is a grievous loss.

He says felons already fulfill their debt to society through jail time. I say that felons fittingly lose their right to the social laws that they flouted, just as drunk drivers lose their driving licenses.

He says that the felon's past actions are simply a "scar in the past", and have no effect on his voting decisions. I say that actions are an indicator of judgement and that the felon's actions are like the grade F on the student's transcript that denies him many job opportunities.

He says that a felon, like a non-felon, would have to choose either candidate A or B. I say the political reality is that out of candidates A....Z, the drug dealer can likely pick out someone who supports the legalization of harmful drugs.

He says that we should assume felons possess the judgement required to vote. I say we should assume that felons lack the judgement to vote, until they prove otherwise.

He quotes J.S.Mill. I do not quote J.S.Mill.

He says we must give felons the chance to prove they're reformed. I agree, which is why I proposed the Pardons Commission in Round 1.
----------

Reader, as you vote, keep in mind that Pro, despite my explicit request, has failed to provide any concrete policy implications of his position. I have already demonstrated what my position would entail practically, giving the example of Mississippi, but you lack any idea how Pro's positions could be implemented. A vote for Pro would be a vote for something you do not understand concretely.

To recap: Even in democratic societies, the right to vote is alienable. Felons should lose their right to vote as a form of punishment and to benefit society.
Debate Round No. 3
7 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 7 records.
Posted by trendem 7 years ago
trendem
snelld, I think because of my round forfeit, this debate didn't go into the public view, so hardly anyone's voting for it. How about we make a new debate and simply repaste these arguments over there? We could correct our spelling errors, but I hope we don't make any major changes to the substance of the debate.
Posted by trendem 7 years ago
trendem
Sorry, I forfeited the round because I misclicked! I pasted what I had written in the comments.
Posted by trendem 7 years ago
trendem
[continued...] 3) "First off, you're assuming taht the convicted rapist is not sorry and is still malicious. Secondly, you're under the misconceived notion that someone who has a history of rape, can vote for someone who will rape america."
Yes, I might be making some assumptions. Forgive me if I give the benefit of the doubt to law-abiding citizens. How dastardly of me.

" There is no harm that can come from a rapist, murderer, or thief voting because they can only vote on something that's productive for the society. After all, we let ex-convicts marry, reproduce, buy beer, own property and drive. "
False analogy, because the felon's decision to drink beer, get married etc. doesn't affect the rest of society.

"If we thought criminals could never be reformed, we wouldn't let them out of prison in the first place. "
They can be reformed, but I'm assuming they're not reformed, until they prove otherwise.

"Plus, Even non-felons are capable of bad judgment. If we are disenfranchising felons simply because of a bad decision and/or bad decision-making skills, there are plenty of other people who shouldn't be allowed to vote. But who can set that standard of good decision versus bad decision in any absolute form regarding elections?"
Yes, but the non-felons haven't displayed their bad judgement by breaking the law. If they would, we'd remove their rights too.

B- "The fact that you don't want people with different opinions to vote, is outragious! The whole purpose of voting is to weigh all opinions!"
Again, we already censor certain opinions that we deem immature or unfit, such as children's and mentally incompetent's. And again, the readers need to ask themself if the forgers and drug dealers are fit to decide your neighborhood's policeman.

I love you for the JSM quote!
I will summarize my argument next post. Vote Con!

SOURCES
[1] http://www.natchezdemocrat.com...
Posted by trendem 7 years ago
trendem
Thank you for an intelligent rebuttal.

" If you assume this position then I will assume the position that felons should retain their voting rights, except in extreme cases. "
Sure, you can take that position, but what will it entail practically? The position I'm taking is already a reality in many states, such as in Mississippi. [1] In other words, what are the policy implications of your position?

1) You argue that a democratic society cannot exist without all its members being able to vote, but society must already set limits on who can vote: for eg., underage people, non-citizens and the mentally incompetent (insane) cannot vote. Democratci societies have the power to stipulate the minimum responsibility and mental capacities required to vote. Hence, the right to vote is alienable.

2) Removing voting rights as a punishment to felons:
You argue that "Laws are measured by how well they protect the public and how well they deter crime", but there is a third very important type of law that you omitted: PUNITIVE law. There is some notion of punishment, or justice involved in many laws; these laws might not help the public or deter crime, but they exact revenge on the wrongdoer. I said that removing voting rights serves a punitive purpose.

".... lets take a look at the second criteria for effective laws. How well it deters crime."
I'm not arguing the law deters crime.

You also assert that voting rights are unrelated to committing a felony. No, they are related because the felon, by his actions, has expressed contempt for the laws and law-makers of society, and fittingly, get deprived of a chance to determine those laws.

3) "First off, you're assuming taht the convicted rapist is not sorry and is still malicious. Secondly, you're under the misconceived notion that someone who has a history of rape, can vote for someone who will rape america."
Yes, I might be making some assumptions. Forgive me if I give the benefit of the doubt to law-abiding cit
Posted by untitled_entity 7 years ago
untitled_entity
The vote period is indefinite?
Alrighty then
Posted by snelld7 7 years ago
snelld7
Neh, I'm in a responding mood
Posted by crackofdawn_Jr 7 years ago
crackofdawn_Jr
I'll take this if you post your argument first.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by snelld7 7 years ago
snelld7
snelld7trendemTied
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Total points awarded:70