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RFD for Compulsory Voting Debate

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10/15/2015 8:51:17 PM
Posted: 2 years ago
This is an RFD for the debate between Philocat and thett3 given here:

Alright, I didn't have a lot of time to organize this, so I figured I'd just go down the general flow of the debate, though there's a lot of cross-talk between arguments that I tried to place in the right spots. I apologize for any lack of clarity on that end.

Framework Debate:

This ends up being conceded by Pro, which I honestly think was a bit of a mistake. I'll get to this more as I go through the debate, but a lot of Pro's arguments hinge on things that link strongly to democracy without examining why more democracy = good. Con spends a lot more time terminalizing his impacts and examining why we should prefer them absent any substantial biases (not to say that there are none, but he's never really called out on them).

Pro's Case:

I'm surprised at just how little I understand Pro's plan by the end of the debate. What, exactly, does compulsory voting look like? Pro points to several examples of success, but doesn't say that we're copy/pasting those systems anywhere. Instead, it's just sort of assumed that mandatory means some nebulous punishment will be meted out to those who disobey (and, apparently, in some cases to their employers), that there's some unknowable system in place for helping the disabled and preventing employers from being absolute a$$holes about letting their employees vote, and that spoiled ballots will be put into place in every system.

It's a lot of assumptions. It's also a lot of case expansions. I know Con isn't pointing to these problems (at least not directly), but they do linger on my mind by the end of the debate. If I can't nail down Pro's viewpoint, I have more trouble supporting his proposal, and if I feel that he's expanding his case round-by-round to the detriment of clear discussion of his policy choice, then the damage that does to the debate is a factor in my decision. Not a big factor, but a factor.

Nonetheless, it's clear from the discussion how, generally, CV works, and therefore it's clear enough how Pro's case functions.

Con's CP:

By contrast, the CP is more simple and straightforward, albeit still lacking somewhat in clarity. Pro points out early that we don't know what these tax credits look like, though frankly it's unclear just what effects I should be concerned with beyond cost (which I'll address shortly). On its face, the CP is clear in how it works and why it works that way, so I'll just focus on the direct responses here.

I'll admit, I'm kind of surprised that Con's counter plan didn't suffer more attacks. I thought a classism response would have been warranted, since these tax credits aren't likely to scale with income, meaning that some people are more likely to need it than others. The idea of bribing someone to vote comes to mind, but since it wasn't brought up, I'll move onto Con's actual objections.

The cost issue is the major one, albeit it's not as well articulated as it could have been. Pro just argues that there's a big cost, and that that money could have been spent good places. It's a basic opportunity cost DA, but these are notorious for their weak links, since you sort of just have to assume that the examples Pro cites are where the money would go if not for the tax breaks. Con never really challenges them, so I do need to buy it to some degree. However, I found Con's response compelling, since Pro never took the time to address the link to economic growth, and made no effort to preclude Pro's efforts to apply that spending in the exact same way. Con took advantage of the weak link to use it for himself, and thus turned the DA in his favor. I did find it at least somewhat suspect that Pro was arguing that his case didn't cost much as well.. I can understand how the actions of law enforcement won't matter, but are we seriously just discounting the many legal challenges and jailing of dissidents as minimally important in this regard? I guess I'm surprised that neither of them were brought up.


This is where that problem with the framework starts to hit Pro hard. He's essentially arguing that democracy is good on its face, but without the framework to support it, this is just a weak assertion. I'm buying that having an outsized effect on the outcome of elections is only really good in hindsight, but the good of having as many voters as possible is at least somewhat uncertain.

The only clear link to any impact on this position is legitimacy. The impact remains weak throughout most of the debate, with only an assertion that legitimacy somehow makes societies better. The argument that a less legitimate government produces "better democracy" doesn't have that clear link, but the point about bitterness and protests stands out.

Unfortunately for Pro, it's mitigated by Con's CP, which accomplishes a similar goal in increasing turnout. Moreover, since Pro drops Con's assertion that those who don't show would either be ignorant or uninterested, there appears to be no clear party that would engage in these actions. Maybe some would anyway, but without making it clear who would do this, Pro is leaving his link vague and weak.


Pro does give a lot of analysis on how access to voting is made likelier by his plan than it is by any other, and I found this persuasive, though much of the best analysis comes late. This is one point I really don't see strong response from Con on, as he really only suggests that there are other means to accomplish the same goals. Con does challenge the notion that Pro's plan will result in help being given to those who are physically disabled and that employers would allow workers to out and do it, and that's all taken into consideration, particularly because all of Pro's analysis on the latter comes late (the first I hear of employers being punished comes in the final round). Still, some measure of equitable means for voting, at least for the disabled, is a solid impact for Pro's case.
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10/15/2015 8:51:41 PM
Posted: 2 years ago

There's a lot of back and forth on this one, and in the end, the conceded point that there is no empirical evidence to support this claim doesn't do Pro any favors. It leaves much of this as assertion, albeit one with some logical warrants. The other major problem with this point is I feel that education is mainly compared with the status quo rather than Con's CP, and I think that makes assessing this a little less straightforward than Pro would like.

The argument goes that active involvement in the political process invites more people to learn more about the candidates and what they stand for. It makes some sense why that would be the case, but since both cases increase active involvement, I'm just looking those who would not be incentivized by Con's plan to those. Since the assertion is that the ones who wouldn't be incentivized either are actively against voting (and therefore are either informed or actively don't wish to be) or just don't know enough to get involved, it's really the latter group that Pro is claiming will get educated. The problem is that I don't have a clear idea that these people, in particular, will make the effort under either plan. Maybe active involvement will push them to try to understand what's going on. Maybe active involvement will turn them into cynics and against the voting process. It's difficult to say. So Pro is garnering some advantage here, but I can't say for how many people and to what degree it matters.

Moreover, I'm presented with the concern that those who stay uninformed will harm the system. Pro talked quite a bit about egalitarianism and equality in voting, but never really addresses the point Con is making, and instead reverts back to his framework. This would have been fine if his framework had survived, but it really hasn't, and so he's stuck arguing for an impact without any real strength behind it. Con's argument really doesn't have much of an impact either, since he's not explaining how skewing the votes towards ignorance is necessarily harmful, but it really isn't challenged. Given that, this actually seems to outweigh Pro's argument.


Again, this position is couched in Pro's framework. Being less democratic doesn't make something necessarily harmful. I can buy that extremism is more of a problem under the CP, but that really doesn't do much for Pro's case, since the impacts of extremism are linked to increased democracy being inherently good. If the problem was that moderates weren't getting access, that would be a different story, but Pro's argument is chiefly about forced representaiton. If I'm buying that moderates have consent to the situation by refraining from voting (and, frankly, I'm not sure I should be, though I don't see arguments against it), then I'm not seeing a harm to anyone's decision not to be vote. Beyond that, even if I did buy some major shift, I'm seeing Con's CP getting much of the same impacts, not to mention the added impacts of changes through primary elections. These may be restricted to certain countries, but that stil lrepresents a reduction in extremism that doesn't exist in Pro's case.


I can kind of see Con is going with this, in that we're discussing a united decision across all democracies to change towards compulsory voting. The discussion itself does appear to make us appear as though we're dictating policy, telling countries what the best form of government is and how to run it. I can see that.

The problem is that this doesn't come in the form where I can use it as a means of evaluating Pro's words and their effect on society, i.e. a Kritik. As I see it, what Con's trying to find fault with is the plan itself, which is relatively blameless from where I'm sitting. This isn't some nebulous power forcing countries to commit to compulsory voting, but rather reasoning as to why they should embrace it themselves. As such, I really just don't see how this applies as written.


This is the strongest point in the debate, and it's also where I pull the trigger. What Con's telling me is that there is essentially only one way to uphold freedom of religion, and that is to be as little intrusive as possible. Pro doesn't dispute this, and though his eventual effort to show that Con's counter plan could be viewed as intrusive was a good start, it comes as too little too late in the debate. I buy that, even if all ballots could be spoiled, religious peoples who desire to be neutral would be forced to take an action with which they don't agree and to step out of their neutrality. I buy that this harm to their fundamental rights is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, impact in the debate because it's a basic issue of individual rights, something Con has been constantly keeping on the table as a large part of his impact analysis. Even in cases where spoiled ballots are fine for the people themselves, Con is right to point out that this negates some of the benefit that Pro wants, as it reduces democratic input by basically allowing people to recuse themselves at the ballot box.

But if I don't want to vote there, I can vote on freedom of speech. Con talks about the importance of not voting as a form of speech, something that Pro is not really responsive to throughout the debate. If silence is a means of speech that is cut off through his case, then he's doing fundamental harm to that freedom. While I don't necessarily buy that popular demand should dictate whether compulsory voting is a good thing for society, it also stands as a point unopposed, and a reason for me to find fault with Pro's case on the basic liberty issue.

I don't really see Pro exceeding this impact anywhere. So long as the "more democracy is always better" framework is dropped and Con's framework is conceded, it's hard to see how any of Pro's impacts can have the weight that a loss of individual freedom does in this debate. As such, that's where I vote.
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10/16/2015 7:20:50 AM
Posted: 2 years ago
Thanks for the vote, it's given me a lot to consider.

I'm in a bit of a quandry over my framework. It makes intuitive sense that a democracy ought to be democratic, but I'm not sure exactly why this is true. This is probably one of the main reasons I lost the debate.

I also could have devoted more time to refuting the CP - your suggestions that it could be classist or bribery are good points, ones that I unfortunately didn't consider at the time.