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

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

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Post Voting Period
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after 3 votes the winner is...
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/28/2008 Category: Miscellaneous
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 3,205 times Debate No: 5835
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (10)
Votes (3)




Legislatures in 16 states have loosened voting restrictions on felons over the last decade, according to a new report, a trend hailed by some rights advocates as a step toward democratic principles and fairness, especially for black Americans.
What voting restrictions, if any, should be placed on felons?

Because of their high incarceration rate, blacks are most affected by the voting bans that vary widely among the states, with many barring current inmates and parolees from voting until they have fulfilled their sentences, and some barring felons for life.

In recent years, Iowa, Nebraska and New Mexico have repealed their lifetime bans on voting by people who have been convicted of felonies, and several other states made it easier for freed prisoners or those on probation to vote, according to the report, issued yesterday by the Sentencing Project, a liberal advocacy group in Washington.

The recent changes have restored voting rights to more than 600,000 individuals, the report said. But because the country's prison population has continued to rise, a record number of Americans, 5.3 million, are still denied the vote because of criminal records, it concluded.

"It's good news that many people who'd been disqualified from voting are being re-engaged as citizens," said Jeremy Travis, president of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York and a leader of the movement to smooth the re-entry of prisoners to society.

"I think people are realizing that the country had gone too far in marginalizing a large group of people who have been convicted of felonies," Mr. Travis said. "This has had profound consequences for our democracy and the participation of minorities."

But some conservatives remain philosophically opposed to any wholesale loosening of voting restrictions. "If you're not willing to follow the law, then you shouldn't't claim the right to make the law for someone else," said Roger Clegg, president of the Center for Equal Opportunity, a conservative advocacy group in Washington.

Mr. Clegg, who was a senior Justice Department official in the Reagan and first Bush administrations, said that those convicted of felonies should be given the vote only case by case, when they have proved to be constructive members of society.

Some restrictions on voting date to the early years of the country or to the post-Civil-War period, while others were tightened during the "get tough on crime" era of the 1980's.

By federal law, voter rules are mainly set by the states. As a result, even in presidential elections, former prisoners can vote in some states but not others.

Only two states, Maine and Vermont, have no restrictions, even permitting inmates to vote. At the other extreme, three states, Florida, Kentucky and Virginia, still have lifetime bans on voting by felons. Nine others bar selected groups of offenders for life.

New York, Connecticut and New Jersey, like most states, do not allow current inmates or parolees to vote.

In a ballot initiative in Rhode Island this November, voters will decide whether to restore voting rights to prisoners on parole or probation, who far outnumber inmates. Early polls show public support for the measure.

Advocates of change emphasize broad arguments about democratic process, but the racial disparities give the issue a special resonance and raise questions about the representation of minorities in politics.

In 2004, one in eight black men were unable to vote because of a felony conviction, the report said, a rate many times higher than that for other groups.

Felony convictions have left one in four black men barred from voting in five states: Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Virginia and Wyoming, said Ryan S. King, author of the report and a policy analyst at the Sentencing Project.

But Mr. Clog argued that the voting restrictions were applied evenhandedly, and that just because they had a disproportionate impact on one group, that did not make them racially discriminatory.

Though data on felon voting patterns are murky, a large majority of former prisoners are believed to lean Democratic. Even with a low turnout rate, their participation could make a difference in close races, experts say. Florida's rules, for example, might have been a factor in the 2000 presidential election.

Most black voters in Florida say that the state should overturn the law that prevents a half-million people of all races from casting a ballot because they are convicted felons, a St. Petersburg Times poll shows.

The survey says that nine of 10 black voters in Florida think that felons who pay their debt to society should automatically have their voting right restored.

Florida is one of nine states that deny the right to vote to all convicted felons who have served their time. Felons can have their rights restored by appealing to the governor and Cabinet, often a lengthy process.

Support for a change to the state law is uniformly high among men and women, Republicans and Democrats, and all age groups, according to a survey of 600 African-Americans conducted by Washington-based Schroth and Associates for the St. Petersburg Times.

Florida's law has been part of the state's political landscape since the 1800s and has spurred a federal class-action lawsuit against the governor and spawned several legislative efforts to overturn it.

The law disproportionately impacts blacks, who tend to vote Democratic. Indeed, some research suggests that ex-felons of all races lean toward the Democratic Party. Some experts contend a change could have a big political effect in a state that was shown during last year's presidential race to be closely divided between Republicans and Democrats.

The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law estimates that 500,000 felons in Florida are affected by the law. Of those, 139,000 are black people, according to the center.

Christopher Uggen, a University of Minnesota sociologist who has studied the political consequences of felon disenfranchisement laws, contends that Gore would have won Florida if felons would have been allowed to vote last year. He also speculates that Florida's retired U.S. Sen. Connie Mack probably would not have won his close 1988 election if felons had been allowed to vote.

However, lawyers for Gov. Jeb Bush's office have argued that the number of people who can't vote because of the law is much lower than the 500,000 cited by opponents.

State Rep. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, has filed two bills that would give felons their voting rights one year after they satisfy all sentences. Four similar bills are filed in the Senate. All are assigned to several committees -- a sign that they might have tough going in the GOP-controlled Legislature.

But Smith said House Speaker Tom Feeney has floated a compromise that would allow ex-felons to apply to a local judge for clemency. Feeney was not available to comment.

House Majority Leader Mike Fasano said he was unaware of any compromise offers, adding that he thought the state's present clemency process is adequate. The Republican caucus has not taken a stance on the bills though, Fasano said, and he expected vigorous committee discussion on them.

Whether the bills make it to the floor of the Republican-dominated body depends on the committee chairs, he said.

Gov. Bush's Select Election Task Force also has identified the issue as critical and referred it to the Legislature for review and possible action.


When you go against society, and commit a felony, you lose this societies trust. We don't let children vote, or the mentally incompetent vote, because we cannot trust there decisions. The same comes with felons. We cannot trust them, because of their poor judgment to commit a felony, therefore they cannot vote. People who commit serious crimes have shown that they are not trustworthy. When they decided they were going to go against society, they also decided they are going to lose their right to vote.

Value: Justice

It is not fair to give an equal voice in society to someone who has been a law abiding citizen, and a felon who has gone against society all together. When someone commits a felony, they should lose there right to vote. If a person wants a say in a Democracy, and wants to be able to vote in a Democracy, they must not go against it and commit a felony. Now why would we, as citizens, as non-felon citizens, want felons helping to pick our representatives? If you're a convicted felon, convicted of a violent crime, you have bad judgment. Why would we want people with that judgment picking our representatives?
Criterion: just deserts
Just deserts is basically giving people what they deserve. It is doing wrong and taking action for your wrong doing. In this round, you will see that people don't deserve the right to vote after they have committed a felony.
My first contention is that it in not fair or equal to give a felon who has gone against a democratic society and a law abiding citizen equal voting rights. My second contention is felons being used by candidates running for office. My third contention is the public opinion rejecting felon voting rights.
Contention 1: By committing a very serious crime, ex-felons demonstrate disrespect for the law. Therefore, they should have no input in determining who writes these laws. Felons shouldn't have the same voting rights as regular, law abiding, hard working Americans. In 2000 the Supreme Court affirmed the district court's interpretation that our constitution does not protect the right of all citizens to vote, but rather the right of all qualified citizens to vote. This means it is the state legislature's power to decide who is qualified. If you are a citizen over 18 you are automatically qualified. If you are considered mentally incompetent, or commit a felony you are disqualified. This is about being disqualified from voting. The same comes with gun rights, if someone abuses guns; we take that right away from them. So if a felon abuses a society, the society takes away the felon's right to vote. The American citizens who make up the democratic society are the people who should be the ones deciding who there leader is going to be, not the felons that have become outcasts of this society by going against it. The felon made their choice when they decided to go against society.
Contention 2: There are currently 5.3 million felons in the United States who have lost there right to vote. Say these 5.3 million felons could vote and one of the candidates was going to be extremely less harsh against criminals. These extra 5.3 million votes would almost surely give a candidate a victory. Do we, law abiding American citizens want our representatives to be decided on by felons? No. If you are a convicted felon, convicted of a violent crime, you obviously have bad judgment, so why should a society let you use your judgment to pick out the better candidate? The voting is not only voting for a presidential candidate, but also the local elections. In a city in California, called signal hill, the vote for mayor came down to one vote. In a school board election in Alaska, it was a dead even tie, bringing it to a coin flip. If there would have been one more person voting, a felon, they would have decided who was going to win. Do we really want felons deciding who a mayor or a school board member is?
Contention 3: Much of the American public supports the disenfranchisement if felons. To be exact 81.7% of Americans believe that felons should lose their right to vote. Less than one-tenth of people surveyed believed that felons should keep there right to vote. These people believe that felons should lose their right to vote even after serving prison time because they still cannot be trusted. According to the Florida Department of Correction, over 40% of offenders commit another crime within 3 years of there release; and for those under 18 this number skyrockets to 73%. Furthermore a 2003 Department of Justice report found that more than 70 percent of arrestees tested positive for drugs. The American public has spoken, and the outcome was that most do not want felons to be able to have any part in voting. A democracy is a government made by a society's people. So if the American people think that felons should not be able to vote by this much of a margin, felons should not be allowed suffrage.
In my first contention I proved that felons don't deserve equal rights because the have gone against the law, and in my second contention I showed that felons could get used by candidates, and I gave facts about them not being trustworthy. In my third contention I spoke about how the American public doesn't want felons voting, and they are the democracy. With the evidence I have brought up and the case I have given I would urge your ballot toward the negative side.
Debate Round No. 1


Some potential Aff values: democracy, justice, human rights, human dignity, equality, autonomy, societal welfare. Some potential Neg values: democracy, justice, the rule of law, societal welfare.

Obviously, one of the most critical definitions is that of a "democratic society." Who determines what counts as democratic? What is the core value of a "democratic society?"

Some baseline question: why does anyone have (never mind deserve) the right to vote? Why is it stripped from felons? What's the difference between a civil right and a human right?

A tricky question: when is a felon not a felon? If your definition doesn't involve the expiration of a felon's term, watch out.

Much analysis coming: value/criterion pairs, crucial definitions, important articles, and more. Watch this space, and, as always, post questions, comments, and wild ideas. They're what make this blog most useful to all who come by for (quality, free) advice.

Articles and Analysis
1. I review an article explaining several reasons felons ought to have the franchise. [10/1]
2. International law analysis and links, plus a retributive perspective. [10/4]
3. A Rawlsian stance on the affirmative.
4. A list of potential value/criterion pairs.
5. State-by-state felon disenfranchisement laws are broken down here.
6. Foucault makes an appearance.

1. The importance of defining "felons."
2. "Democratic society."


A felony is a serious crime in the United States and previously other common law countries. The term originates from English common law where felonies were originally crimes which involved the confiscation of a convicted person's land and goods; other crimes were called misdemeanors. Most common law countries have now abolished the felony/misdemeanor distinction and/or replaced it with other distinctions such as between summary offences and indictable offenses. Crimes commonly considered to be felonies include, but are not limited to: aggravated assault and/or battery, arson, burglary, illegal drug abuse/sales, embezzlement, grand theft, treason, espionage, racketeering, robbery, murder, rape, kidnapping and fraud.
People have the right to vote to form a democracy. A democracy is run by the people and for the people. The people vote on there leaders, there laws, and many other important issues. If the people think that felons should not be given suffrage, then in order for a democracy to be kept they mustn't vote.
In some cases like maine and vermont voting is allowed by all felons because they have so many prisons in such little area that they make up much of there population in these states. Is this who we want to be voting? or should we have the hard-working americans who actually abide by the laws that felons help make?
Debate Round No. 2


Da_Baby_Mami_of_debating forfeited this round.


Since you must have had something important going I will also miss this round to keep things fair. I hope you have not quit this debate. I hope the judges do not dock points.
Debate Round No. 3


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

I value democracy. This value is preferable because it is the most relevant on a resolutional scale. Any given society is better off under a full democracy. The Stanford Encyclopedia if Philosophy explains. "Two kinds of in instrumental benefits are commonly attributed to democracy: relatively good laws and policies and improvements in the characters of the participants. John Stuart Mill argued that a democratic method of making legislation is better than non-democratic methods in three ways: strategically, epistemically and via the improvement of the characters of democratic citizens (Mill, 1861, Chapter 3). Strategically, democracy has an advantage because it forces decision-makers to take into account the interests, rights and opinions of most people in society. Since democracy gives some political power to each, more people are taken into account than under aristocracy or monarchy. The most forceful contemporary statement of this instrumental argument is provided by Amartya Sen, who argues, for example, that "no substantial famine has ever occurred in any independent country with a democratic form of government and a relatively free press" (Sen 1999, 152). The basis of this argument is that politicians in a multiparty democracy with free elections and a free press have incentives to respond to the expressions of needs of the poor." Democracy is extremely beneficial and thus is the ultimate goal of any society.

The standard is individual agency. The main goal of a society is to assure each indviduals right to agency. If people could not make decisions then society would not exist and democracy could not exist. Violation of an individual's agencies are therefore baad. Any action denying an individual of his agency thus is also bad. My burden is to prove denying a felon the right to vote in a democratic society violates that felons agency.

1. Convictions may be wrong. This means that we are denying a felon of automatic right when he actually may not have commited the crime in the first place. A innocent person may lose a right guarenteed to them by democracy. This is a clear violation of the agency of the innocent individual.

2. Discrimination. In the United States, most of the inmates are black. This means that in society, blacks lose more rights than white. This is unfair and bias and is a violation of blacks autonomy.

3. By commiting a felony, convicts are being punished by being confined in jail. It is unfair to provide extra punishments and violates their autonomy.


I negate that felons should retain the right to vote.

In my oppenents first statement of round 4 he said "I value democracy. This value is preferable because it is the most relevant on a resolutional scale. Any given society is better off under a full democracy." A democracy is a government where the people of a society choose their own leaders, and laws. So if this sociaty says they don't want felons to vote shouldn't feons not vote. This is part of democracy. Majority rules. To be exact 81.7% of Americans believe that felons should lose their right to vote. My oppenent also spoke of discrimination in that blacks lose their right to vote more than other races. This is not because our court systems are racist. Our court sytems are fair and just. If any became racist they would immediatly be taken out. My oppenents third contention in round 4 was about felons being in jail and not deserving more punishment. Being sent to prizon and disenfranchised come together. You made a bad choice and got sent to prizon and disenfranchised for it. American citizens are no longer going to allow you to choose who you want to lead them, when you have just got against them all together. Felons are bad people who do not deserve to vote. They are rapists and theives. Murderers and drug smugglers. We, as the american public, do not need the help of these people in voting for our President or any other election.
Debate Round No. 4


Abraham Lincoln once defined America's democracy as a government "of the people, by the people, and for the people." The context of this quote refers to American citizens.

My value for this round will be equality, and my criterion will be democracy. This means that whoever allows for the most amount of democracy by way of equality, will win this round. This is a fair value and criterion because the resolution is talking about what is best for a democratic society, ergo my criterion; and equality is essential to a democracy, ergo my value.

Democracy (root of democratic) - is a government elected by the people. The people elect their representatives who sit in the legislature to make laws
Society - a grouping of individuals which is characterized by common interests and may have distinctive culture and institutions.
Felons - A person convicted of a serious criminal offense punishable by imprisonment exceeding one year.

With that, I will uphold this resolution with three main contentions. The first will be what democracy is. The second contention will be what is happening in America and it's democracy. And my third contention will be why it is wrong to disallow felons the right to vote. I would also like to point out that the resolution refers to America seeing as in America (a democratic society) felons do not have the right to vote.

Contention 1: A democracy, specifically the American democracy, has it's basis on the people voting. In order for a democracy to work, the people must vote. Recently though, there has been a trend especially in young people of not voting. This is why MTV and other major companies have worked on reaching young people and persuading them to vote. Also in America, felons are not allowed to vote. This is contrary to what a democracy is. A democracy relies on it's citizens voting. So this trend of not voting is desperately hurting America, as is not allowing felons the right to vote. But I will discuss this further in my contention three.

Contention 2: Felons are being denied the right to vote. This is common knowledge and should not be argued. According to the Human Rights Watch, there are currently over 3.9 million U.S. citizens that do not have the right to vote. That is one percent of all the population in America.

Contention 3. This is wrong. Alexis de Tocqueville, in his book Democracy In America, said "Once a people begins to interfere with the voting qualification, one can be sure that sooner or later it will abolish it altogether. That is one of the most invariable rules of social behavior." This argument is most commonly called the slippery slope argument. Once something has been done, it invariably leads to something bigger or in this case worse happening. The constitution goes into great detail regarding the right to vote. In it's fifteenth amendment, it says "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude." In it's nineteenth amendment, it says "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." In it's twenty-fourth amendment, it says "The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election . . . shall not be denied or abridged . . . by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax." In it's twenty-sixth amendment, it says "The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of age." All of these are pointing to the conclusion that no person be denied the right to vote. No matter what their looks, age, or previous history has been. This should include felons. Felons live in America. They are affected by the same laws that you and I are affected by. If our legislators or president are going to do something that isn't fair in their eyes, they should have a say in that. Democratic principle says that all peoples should be able to vote. There are no limitations.

Thank you very much and I wish you luck in your arguments.


Wow nice job. This was a good closing statement except you copied and pasted the whole thing from

I guess i will still make my closing statements to.

First i will attack this new case you just copied then i will make my closing arguments.

Against your criterion of Democracy- Democracy is a governement run by the people and decided upon by majority rule. So if the majority of people think felons shouldn't vote they should not be able to. I don't think this is a very good criterion considering we will always still have democracy whether felons vote or not. Felons do have a voice in sociaty. They used this voice when they went against sociaty saying "I don't want any part of this sociaty." They wasted there voice there instead of using it to elect who they want. By committing a very serious crime, ex-felons demonstrate disrespect for the law. Therefore, they should have no input in determining who writes these laws.

Now for my closing argument.

Felons are people who have commited a serious crime of anger and hatred. These felons have shown they do not have good judgement. We should not let them use thier poor judgement at a time when judgement counts the most, during a national election. 81.7% of Americans believe that felons should lose their right to vote. The american punlic has spoken and came to a conclusion of felons not being able to vote.

In my first arguments I proved that felons don't deserve equal rights because the have gone against the law, I also showed that felons could get used by candidates, and I gave facts about them not being trustworthy. Then I spoke about how the American public doesn't want felons voting, and they are the democracy. In my next argument i gave facts about felons having drugs and in most cases going back to jail once set free. In my last argument i spoke about felons having bag judgement. With all of this together i believe you should vote toward the negative side.

To Da_Baby_Mami_of_debating- Thank you for this fun debate and may the best debater win. I very much so enjoyed this resolution. I would love to debate you on other topics sometime in the future. Thank you and good bye for now.
Debate Round No. 5
10 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by Ethanthedebater1 9 years ago
Why were all of Pro's arguments plagiarized?
Posted by Dunnxj 9 years ago
The con case won for sure. He stated his points very well. I thought the affirmative dragged on a bit over the same things. Also the con had a much better attack while the affirm really didn't attack the case just stated more oppinions.
Posted by sadolite 9 years ago
OH, by the way, the United States is a Republic not a Democracy.
Posted by sadolite 9 years ago
We are all felons, we can't vote!! LOL
Posted by Atchison 9 years ago
can everyone plz vote on this debate?
Posted by elgeibo 9 years ago
I would like to debate as a devil's advocate, but I'd prefer someone who actually believes differently to do so. Plus, it's really long!
Posted by sadolite 9 years ago
I would take on this debate except for the fact it is a race bait argument. A felon is a felon is a felon, who cares what race they are.
Posted by brian_eggleston 9 years ago
Also, think about this. All the paedos locked up might vote for a politician that promises to lower the age of consent so that they can continue their vile, perverted practices with impunity once released.
Posted by mill08 9 years ago
What is your main point of debate? That people in prison should have the right to vote, because most convicted felons are in prison for some time, and if that is the case they are obligated to give up all rights of being a citizens as for parolees and people who just get out shouldn't be able to vote for some time until law permits them. Its simple you break the law there are consequences, and I feel this is more of a moral and what extent the law should punish discussion than proving of disproving a given topic.
Posted by questionmark 9 years ago
that was a bit long. I would have accpeted, but come on. if you break the law, you cant complain about it, youve already shown you dont care about the laws.
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