Should Felons be Allowed to Vote?
Debate Rounds (3)
Round 2: Con refutes prop and introduces new assertion(s). Pro refutes and concludes
Hello, my name is Forever 23 and I am her upon this platform to bring forth my premise which is that felons should not be allowed to vote.
I would like to frame this debate to a criminal being released one or less years ago from jail. So an argument about criminals that were released 5 years ago and are currently out of jail would be irrelevant.
My ensuing roadmap will include first, defining this debate and then divulging 3 of my own points.
According to Meriam Websters:
Should- used to indicate obligation, duty, or correctness, typically when criticizing someone's actions.
Felons- a person who has been convicted of a felony.
Allowed- admit (an event or activity) as legal or acceptable.
Vote- a formal indication of a choice between two or more candidates or courses of action, expressed typically through a ballot or a show of hands or by voice.
Our first assertion is that criminals make choices that will harm the nation. These criminals have already made a malignant decision once. They blatantly cant be trusted with choosing our nations leader. If the felons really cared about their voting rights, they shouldn't have committed a felony. According to USA Today, Nearly eight in 10 Delaware inmates sentenced to more than a year in prison are arrested again for a serious offense within three years of their release, according to a first-of-its-kind state study. The 27-page report, Recidivism in Delaware, also found that 71% of released prisoners are convicted of a serious crime within three years, and that 68% return to prison for at least one day. The report is scheduled for release Wednesday. We want great leaders to power America. But if criminals are the ones to decide our presidents, that could never happen.
My second assertion is that ex-inmates should prove that they are worthy of trust. These felons committed terrible crimes. They hurt our nation in almost every possible way. Before, we let them elect our leaders, they must prove that they are capable of being trusted. According to, Governor of Florida"Governor Scott and Florida Cabinet Discuss Amended Rules of Executive Clemency," "Felons seeking restoration of rights will also be required to demonstrate that they desire and deserve clemency by applying only after they have shown they are willing to abide by the law...
Restoration of civil rights will not be granted "automatically" for any offenses...
The Restoration of Civil Rights can be a significant part of the rehabilitation of criminal offenders and can assist them in reentry into society. It is important that this form of clemency be granted in a deliberate, thoughtful manner that prioritizes public safety and creates incentives to avoid criminal activity." Before we trust a criminal to elect our leader, he must prove to us that he can be a worthy member of society. In order to regain voting rights, the criminal should be able to stay out of jail for a certain amount of time.
Thank you. Please vote for con.
I'd like to thank my opponent for her quick response to my request for 3 debating rounds. This request was made because I believe that 3+ rounds are necessary to fully flesh out and discuss an argument on this topic. Without further ado, I'll get started.
A few things are assumed by Pro (myself) going into this debate. I believe these assumptions are reasonable, though if the opponent does not agree -- they are open to debate.
1. The Burden of Proof is shared between Pro and Con. This issue does not have a "natural correctness", meaning based upon our current understanding of nature and logic, one side cannot naturally be considered more correct than the other (before argumentation.) Additionally, a shared Burden of Proof increases the quality of the debate round, insuring that both debaters focus on all aspects of the issue.
2. That the "felons" in questions are ones that have been released from jail, but that have been out one or fewer years. This is a restatement of my opponent's own assertion, to make clear that the felons in question have already been released from jail.
3. That the newly introduced Round 3 will be used for rebuttals and not the presentation of new arguments. New supporting evidence to already existent claims is acceptable, if it is not clearly controversial in nature.
4. The society in which we frame this debate is the United States, based upon my opponent's multiple references to America and American idealists in her opening remarks.
I will be arguing that felons have should not only be allowed to vote, but that they have a natural right to vote. I will be demonstrating that allowing felons to vote is part of the democratic process and that disallowing such a right violates the fundamental idea of democracy and freedom.
Observation 1: There is no objective right and wrong.
It is first necessary to understand that right and wrong have no objective, natural definition. This is best understood by recognizing that there cannot exist a moral authority.
A moral authority is some intelligent or non intelligent figure that determines exactly what behaviors/actions are or are not moral. We denote immoral actions as "wrong" and moral actions as "right". We do not denote actions of neutral authority with any prefix. Thus far, we have not found evidence that any such authority exists. Many claim that God is this authority. (Religious debate not-withstanding), even if such a God did exist, there is still no reasonable argument that can demonstrate that said being possesses such moral authority.
In the absence of such an authority, we are left with the fact that right and wrong only have subjective meaning. To humans who specifically live in a democratic society, humans are the subject that gives meaning to "right" and "wrong". However, it cannot be said that any one human's claim of moral law is any more valid than another human's claim of moral law.
Observation 2: Laws are not based upon right and wrong, but rather the will of the people.
Understanding that "right" and "wrong" do not exist in any objective capacity, there cannot be laws created based upon these ideals. Rather, laws are created based upon the will of the people. This is a fairly unique feature of democracy, which is defined as "a government by the people, either directly or through elected representatives."
This point is fairly short, but immeasurably important. Many people often discount this fact when discussing laws and the rules of the land. Laws are not a product of objective morality, but rather subjective will.
Observation 3: A democracy demands that all people express their will, to determine laws.
As per the definition of "democracy" and the recognition of [Observation 2], it is clear that a democracy demands that all people within that society are able to express and utilize their will in determining laws.
If there exists a democracy such that it categorically denies people the right to express their will in determining laws, then said society is no longer a democracy. This leads to our conclusion.
Conclusion 1: Denying felons the right to vote denies the principles of democracy.
In denying a felon or anyone at all the right to vote, assuming they have the mental capacity to do so, one denies the principles of democracy. This has dangerous implications, discussed next. Principally, it means that if the U.S. did not allow felons to vote, it would be denying its own Constitutional identity as a country whose government is directed by the will of all people.
It goes without saying that any actions or laws which compel the U.S. to become less democratic are undesirable and directly unconstitutional.
Impact 1: Denying the principles of democracy in this way allows for authoritative abuses.
It's worth addressing that the mode of conduct the opponent proposes directly allows for authoritative abuses. Specifically, when you allow for laws to exist that categorically deny people the right to express their democratic will (vote), you create a circumstance where further abuses can be imposed with less restrictions.
Consider that it is currently illegal for imprisoned felons to vote. This constitutes a categorical denial of the right to vote. This was allowed to happen due to a marginalization of said felons. Felons currently cannot impact the law of the land and have no authority to reverse this marginalization.
It is not difficult to see how another minority category could be denied the right to vote. Even currently, there are efforts being taken by a small number of representatives to implement certain "voting tests" that must be passed in order to vote. Such a test would again categorically deny people the right to vote.
This is particularly dangerous because it involves the transfer of power to fewer and fewer people, with those already stripped of their rights legally unable to stop it. This is clearly not a scenario we want to face, so the only preventative solution is to not strip people of their right to vote in the first place.
Clarification 1: Stripping of rights is Constitutional when the end goal is to prevent harm. Stripping the right to vote does not fall into this category.
An important distinction needs to be made here regarding the right to physical freedom and the right to vote. I am not implying that it is against the principles of democracy to imprison people for committing crimes. When a person demonstrates themselves to be a risk to the public, a retraction of certain rights may be the best solution.
However, the right to vote is very different. By its very nature, voting only serves to strengthen a democracy and fulfill its demands. In restricting physical freedoms, it is never necessary to restrict the right to vote.
Less Formal Analysis
Put basically, it is in our best interest to preserve our democracy and we work counter to that by restricting anyone's right to vote (assuming they have the mental capacity to do so). Regardless of whether or not we agree with that person's moral convictions, their vote is still as valuable to the process as our own. Since we can't claim that some people's morals are "better" or "superior" to others, we cannot realistically claim that a criminal does not deserve to vote because of their past actions.
The Opponent's Assertions
Now I will cover the opponent's assertions.
1. Criminals make choices that will harm our nation.
While it is true that criminals have made choices that harm people, it is impossible to say that their voting choices will harm our nation. Imagine some imaginary amendment that everyone got to vote on stating: "Prisons will no longer exist." If a prisoner voted to pass this amendment, he would not be harming the nation in doing so -- only contributing to the democratic process. If the majority of the nation agreed to pass this amendment, then the democratic process would still be fulfilled and the decision would go in to effect.
A vote isn't much more than the expression of will, or an opinion. A criminal's opinion is incapable of harming our nation as is anyone else's opinion.
2. Ex-inmates should prove they are trustworthy.
A prerequisite of voting is not and has never been "trustworthiness". A democracy is not a government run by "the trustworthy people", but rather "the people". Additionally, determining"trustworthiness" is similar to determining "right" and "wrong", meaning that it is completely subjective in nature.
The opponent is weakly implying that a criminal's right to vote is somehow capable of undermining the rest of the American people. This is patently false, as votes determine the majority opinion. If a prisoner's vote did result in some policy being implemented or some official being elected, it would only be because the majority of Americans (or people in that state) felt the same way about the issue/person.
It is clear that democracy demands that felons have the right to vote. It is impossible to justify their not being able to vote on any moral or reasonable basis. A vote has no power unless it is sided with the majority, the latter of which is the basis by which a democracy determines its laws and elected officials.
My ensuing roadmap will include first abrogating my opponents point, summarizing my points and then introducing 1 new point.
My opponents first and only point was that not letting felons vote violates the democratic ideals of the USA. However, these felons violated the law. They could have murdered someone or raped someone or robbed someone. All these are not okay. Even after jail time, prisoners should not get all of their rights back. That includes the right to vote. If criminals really did care about their rights and freedoms, they should not have committed these crimes. And just as a footnote, there are moral rights and wrongs. Ina addition, the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which addresses equal protection under the law, does not always pertain to felons and ex-felons
Now to summarize my own points.
1. criminals make choices that will harm the nation.
2. ex-inmates should prove that they are worthy of trust.
Now I would like to introduce another new point:
Contention 3: The crimes committed by ex-felons don't just involve injustice to one party, but include actions against the entire society. What these people have done, we could all agree is unacceptable. These people have committed actions that are a detriment not only to their party but also to the entire country- USA. According to attorneys.com, Examples felonies include:
"Assault: Although not always classified as a felony, assault, if severe enough, can warrant a felony charge. Assault occurs when someone threatens physical violence, causing fear or harm. Usually, assault occurs with the use of a weapon, such as a gun or knife.
"Battery: Battery, which usually is accompanied by assault, occurs when someone actually causes another person physical harm, usually with the use of a weapon or fists.
"Arson: Arson is when someone intentionally sets fire to a building or, in some instances, a natural area, such as a forest.
"Rape: Rape is the act of engaging someone in non-consensual sex.
"Murder: Murder, also known as homicide, is when one person kills another person.
The main difference between a felony and a misdemeanor is the severity of the crime. What is considered to be a severe crime will vary from society to society and, sometimes, from state to state.
Both felonies and misdemeanors can be committed against people, property, or the state. Once again, though, the difference is the severity of the crime. For example, speeding down the highway would be considered a misdemeanor, but running someone over with your car on purpose would be considered a felony.
The punishments for a felony and misdemeanor differ greatly as well. Felonies tend to involve prison sentences of at least a year, fines, or a combination of both. Misdemeanors, on the other hand, involve prison sentences of less than a year, smaller fines, or a combination of both. Misdemeanors frequently result in alternative sentencing, such as community service or rehabilitation programs. Very serious felonies can warrant the death penalty.
I am sure that we can all agree that acts such as these are a terror to the entire nation.
If you believe that those who murder, rob, or rape should not be the ones to choose our nations leaders, please vote oppositions.
I'd like to thank Forever 23 for her quick response.
I'll first be addressing the criticisms the opponent introduced regarding my case, reinforce my previous issues with her case, then address her new argument.
The opponent largely fails to adequately address my case. Instead of referring to any my contentions, impacts and clarifications, she instead generalizes my argument and briefly makes baseless assertions.
As for my main thesis -- that denying felons the right to vote violates the democratic ideals of the US, she simply points out that felons have broken the law. This goes without saying, as the only way to become a felon is to break the law. However, the fact that these criminals have broken the law does not detract from any of my arguments.
Refer back to my "Clarification 1" where I clearly address the difference between restricting physical freedoms and restricting the right to vote. The entire purpose of this restriction of freedoms is a) to give time for the criminal to think about their actions and b) to insure that they are not capable of hurting anyone(s property) again. This is acceptable. However, allowing a felon to vote in no way damages other citizens, their property or their well being. It does, however, damage the democratic process, as I proved at length.
Additionally, the opponent briefly claims that "there are moral rights and wrongs", but does nothing to prove this logically or empirically. This contrasts with my Observation 1, where I give the demonstrate the logic behind why there is no objective right and wrong. Prefer my reasoning to her assertion.
Lastly, the 14th Ammendment has little to do with my argument, as my argument concerns the idealistic flaw in disallowing felons to vote.
Summary: As it stands, the opponent largely ignored my argument and instead made vague and unsubstantiated assertions. Such a response cannot stand in an academic debate of this nature.
The Opponent's Case
Here, the opponent summarizes her own points while completely ignoring my response to them. I am not exagerating for the purpose of grandstanding -- she literally did not respond to them.
As this debate is only 3 rounds long, it is critical that every argument be responded to the very next round. This is the only way that we can hope to have a thorough, meaningful debate. As it stands now, the opponent's case simply cannot stand. Not only did I present the flaws inherent to it, but the opponent failed to defend it. Let's remember that "silence is compliance."
The Opponent's Contention Three
For the last section of her response, the opponent introduces a new argument. This argument essentially says that felons have committed a grievance against at least one party and, indirectly, society as a whole.
I don't deny this. Felons indeed have committed crimes of a great magnitude and justice has demanded they give up many of their physical freedoms. The felons we are specifically talking about in this debate (as per my opponent's first round statements) are the ones who have already served their time and are no longer restricted in their physical freedoms.
My entire argument demonstrates that at no point in the entire process should a felon have their right to vote restricted and this includes the subset of felons discussed in this debate. The opponent's contention that these felons have committed crimes is obviously true, but completely irrelevant.
Opponent's Concluding Remarks
The last thing we are left with is my opponent claiming that if you don't agree with "murder, rob [sic], or rape" then you should not allow the ones who committed those crimes to elect our nation's leaders. I urge you not to allow this appeal to emotion to cloud your objective judgement. Just because a rapist votes Joe Bob for president doesn't mean Joe Bob himself is a rapist (or any other kind of criminal.)
The opponent did little in the way of attacking my case, did nothing to defend her own case and, lastly, brought up a contention that has no relevancy to the debate at hand.
On the other hand, I have demonstrated in a logical way why felons deserve the right to vote. I have shown that the dangers of disallowing this don't just create a potential abusive legal situation, but fundamentally degrade the Constitutional ideal of democracy.
As this point in the debate, it is quite clear that I have upheld my burden of proving my position, while the opponent has not. By all fair standards of judgement, this debate should go to me. I feel the need to leave a one liner, as did my opponent.
If you believe that it is not 'ok' to destroy the American ideal of democracy, that it is not 'ok' to create an potentially abusive legal situation in which political power can become wildly imbalanced and if you think it's not true that once someone commits a crime their opinions and life experiences suddenly become invalid -- then please vote for me.
My roadmap will include to refute all of my opponent observations, conclusions and clarifications, then I will restate my own arguments and finally I will weigh this debate.
My opponents first observation was that there is no objective right or wrong. However, there is a standard list of moral rules which everyone should follow. These moral laws come from the bible and rom what humanity has learned over the last few thousands years. Those who disobey these moral laws would be considered felons, or criminals. Yes, there is no objective "Right" or "Wrong" but there is a certain set of moral laws which people must abide. Otherwise, they are a criminal.
My opponents second observation laws are not based upon right and wrong, but rather the will of the people. Most people who are sane are against crimes such as murder, rape, or stealing. That is why they created the laws and moral rules. In fact, the laws of the USA government were made official to convict the felons and others who wish to harm the nation and its states. Laws must be created based on the moral ground because committing a crime is simply unethical and should be illegal.
Their final observation was that a democracy demands that all people express their will, to determine laws. However, democracy is when most people believe in a certain idea. Most people, believe that committing crimes such as murder and etc are wrong. And Im sure that with no extra explanation, judges you can also see how and why murder is wrong. Sane people chose these moral grounds to lead us.
So to refute my opponents conclusion. Since most people to agree to and they do cherish those moral grounds, they should stay. Felons are not included in the Constitution and the right to vote does not apply to them. Plus, according to center of equal opportunity, "If you are unwilling to follow the law, you cant claim the right to make the law for everyone else". This would mean that these criminals did not follow the law and disobeyed what was already in place. So why should they be the ones to choose the law?
Their impact was that denying the principles of democracy in this way allows for authoritative abuses. However, letting criminals vote will give us a corrupt government. What candidates will the 5.3 million felons vote for? The candidates that will bring America down. What is the proposition going to propose next? Letting children vote?
Their clarification was that stripping of constitutional rights is ok when the end goal is to prevent harm. This is the main goal here. As I have mentioned before, criminals are the insane who are not able to make correct choices in life. That would mean that they will vote for a candidate that will bring America down. Stripping felons of the right to vote is done only to prevent harm from happening.
No to restate my own assertions:
1. Criminals make choices that will harm the nation
2. Ex- inmates should prove that they are worthy of trust
3. The crimes of ex-Felons don't just involve justice to one party, but include actions against the entire society.
Dear audience, Im sure it is quite blatant why those who murder, steal and rape can not vote. The voters decide our destiny and you can not trust criminals to help America.
The Constitution itself did not mention criminal voting rights because our founding fathers knew that those who disobeyed the law should not be the ones to decide our faith.
If you want to abuse the democracy, if you want the corrupt government, you can vote for the proposition.
Why don't children vote? Because we don't believe that they are fit to choose our future since they are too young. Criminals on the other hand have made incorrect choices in their ADULTHOOD.
If you are looking forward to a strong, progressing America, please vote OPPOSITION.
For this final round, I'll just go straight down the rebutting the arguments of the opponent and defending my own case, in whatever order presented. I'll label along the way. I'll try to keep this short, but if I know myself, this may very well be a long response. Let's get started.
Objective Right and Wrong
The opponent admits that there is no objective right and wrong, but asserts that there is a moral code which we should objectively follow. The contradiction in this position is obvious -- one should not treat a moral code as objective if it is, in fact, not objective. Also, to nip the Bible reference in the bud, instead of arguing the legitimacy of the Bible -- I'll simply point out that there is a clear separation of church and state. Since we are talking about a matter of the state, religion should not be employed.
The opponent then states that if someone does not follow this moral code, they are considered criminals. This statement is nearly correct, except one must substitute "moral code" for "the law". As I have demonstrated and as the opponent has agreed, there is no objective right and wrong, so there is no objective "moral code" to break. There are laws, however, which I have argued should not prohibit felons from voting.
Law As the Will of the People
Forever 23 states that "most people who are sane are against [felonious] crime...". This is true, in my experience. However, the direct implication of that statement is that some sane people are not against felonious crime or all felonious crime. Since there is not an objective moral basis for determining right/wrong, we cannot objectively say that such people's opinions are inherently wrong.
Because we cannot do that, we cannot allow such people to be prohibited from the voting process. If the majority of the people in the US were pro rape, democracy demands that our laws would reflect that by admitting rape. The opponent seems to be under the (false) impression that the will of a person is only valid if it conforms to her (or the general) world view. I have demonstrated this to be false, as a democracy demands that all views are considered equally valid -- no matter how sapient, no matter how foolish.
Democracy Demands the Right to Express Will Through Voting
The opponent addresses that the majority of people believe murder is wrong. I don't believe in an objective moral standard, but my personal moral standards also tell me murder is wrong. This is completely irrelevant, since there exist people in the US who do not believe the same way we do. Democracy grants them the right to express their beliefs in the form of voting, regardless of the nature of their belief.
Forever 23 seems to believe that by allowing felons to vote, the well being of the United States is going to suffer. This simply isn't the case, unless the majority of US citizens agree that is something that should be allowed. The opponent seems to believe that it is justified to silence people simply because they do not share an opinion with the majority. In a democracy, the exact opposite is encouraged.
The opponent says that "since most people agree [with and] cherish those moral grounds, they should stay". Let us not forget that at one time the majority of the US believed that slavery was completely moral. This moral thought was allowed to develop and change over time specifically because people in the minority had the right to express their opinion, especially in the form of voting.
Some people are felons because of drug related offenses -- a "moral issue" that we can see changing dramatically in front of us in this day and age. This counter-example demonstrates that the opponent's assertion that "things are the way they should be, so never mind the rights of felons" (not an actual quote) is completely incorrect and intellectually dishonest.
The claim that felons are not included in the Constitution is a misleading statement. While the term 'felon' is not mentioned in the Constitution, the term "US citizen" is. Felons are still US citizens. And while the opponent is correct that some of these rights can be legally stripped, I have made a compelling argument that there is no good reason to also strip the right to vote. To the contrary, stripping this right has dangerous implications for the sanctity of US democracy.
And her last point was in the form of a question, "Why should someone who disregards the law get to participate in the creation of new law?" The answer is quite simple: Because democracy and the Constitution demands it.
The opponent responds by saying that letting criminal vote will give us a corrupt government. This is plainly untrue (and unproveable). In order for 5.3 million felons to successfully elect an official, it would take more than 20 times more non-felons to make this happen. The opponent also assumes that a felon will never vote for a quality candidate. The opponent also assumes that the right to vote somehow allows for corrupt politicians to finagle themselves through the primary process. The opponent also assumes that felons have no more a valid opinion than children, despite the fact that felons have developed brains and children do not. The opponent makes a lot of assumptions that aren't backed up by logic.
The opponent has not successfully demonstrated through logic or evidence that allowing criminals to vote will somehow cause the nation harm. On the other hand, I have presented clear and thorough logic supporting the opposite view. As for insane felons, I did state clearly that the right to vote should apply people who are "of sound mind". I actually said it twice, in two different ways. Clearly, special cases like insane people/mentally handicapped. Additionally, if I understand the situation correctly, people who are actually insane can plead not guilty for reason of insanity. This means that the insane are not felons, most usually.
The Opponent's Case:
The opponent again does not defend her case. She simply summarizes her points from Round 1 without addressing any of my criticism regarding her case, just as she did in Round 2. As it stands right here, her case has been defeated simply through lack of defense. As the Burden of Proof is shared, as established in Round 1, she has lost the debate because she has not made any effort to prove her case.
I'm actually very surprised the opponent did this, as I spent quite a bit of time preparing my rebuttals, only to have them not addressed. I understand that Forever 23 is new, but not defending your own case in a shared BoP round is debate suicide. Voters, please remember this when coming to your determination. I won't bore you by repeating my exact arguments against her case. She hasn't defended against them, so the arguments haven't changed. Refer to R1 to see these.
Opponent's Closing Remarks
Mostly repeated assertions here, along with some appeal to emotion and misinterpretations of my claims. Not much else to say about it.
R1 my opponent and I presented our arguments, and I responded to the opponent's argument.
R2 my opponent failed to attack any of the Observations in my case and failed to defend her case, instead simply summarizing the original arguments.
R3 my opponent finally attacked my case, but with little logic or evidence to support it. Using mostly reasoning and some evidence, I effectively rebutted those arguments. Additionally, the opponent again did not defend her case.
I may be biased, but the vote is quite clear. The opponent did not even attempt to uphold her burden of proof, losing the debate on that alone. Beyond that, I demonstrated superior use of logic, reasoning and evidence. Thanks for reading this debate and than, Forever 23, for having this debate with me.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by kingkd 11 months ago
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