Oct 17, 2008

more definition analysis for the felon voting resolution

Regarding the Nov/Dec LD resolution, Guest Blogger OkieDebater writes,
Regarding definitions, I think there are lots of ways with this resolution to frame it to where it is advantageous to your side (without your opponent catching on until after they've already agreed to your definitions).

-When defining "felons", it is to the Aff's advantage to select the broadest definition possible. Two examples, both from Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary are:

"1. (Law) A person who has committed a felony.
2. A person guilty or capable of heinous crime."

With this first definition, one is making sure that the debate is not necessarily about currently incarcerated felons, but anyone who has ever committed a felony. This could include ex-felons (those who have completed their terms) and pardoned felons.

(Out of curiosity, would the Neg even make a distinction between a felon and a pardoned felon? IS there any inherent distinction that would account for different rights? Can justice be sold?)

With the second definition of felon, one could try to make the argument that almost anyone is capable of a heinous crime depending upon circumstances. This one is admittedly more of a stretch (unless you've seen the classic Spencer Tracy/Katherine Hepburn movie "Adam's Rib")

-Regarding "ought", the affirmative or negative have several options, depending on if their cases are consequentialist or retributive/deontological. An example of the two (from the American Heritage Dictionary) are:

1 Used to indicate obligation or duty.
2 Used to indicate advisability or prudence

The first is deontological while the second is consequentialist. This is the kind of definition that if your opponent let's you use, it can really become important in a rebuttal as you've already created a foundation as to why your philosophy is more relevant/paramount/superior.

-When defining "retain", there are not nearly as many options that are beneficial to Aff. The Neg can use definitions that obviously include currently incarcerated felons. If this is detrimental to your Aff case, I would suggest going with a definition such as this one, from Princeton University's WordNet 3.0:

"secure and keep for possible future use or application"

This seems to at least give the possibility that is something that can be put off for a later time, thereby potentially excluding incarcerated felons while still being a fair reading of the resolution (assuming, of course, that your opponent doesn't provide and defend a more typical counter-definition, such as "To maintain possession of" from the American Heritage Dictionary)

-I will try to find some good definitions for "democratic society" and "right to vote" later. The last (and probably most controversial) definition I want to put is "a". Yes, the word "a". It seems to me that there could be room to argue based off of this (Of course, as someone who has won a round based off of the definition of the word "is", I always think there's ground to argue). The options I see in this word are conditionality versus universality. While a "conditionality statement" (a statement that one just needs to prove one example to be true to uphold one's burden of proof) is never agreed to, a definition of "a" will most likely be passed by. Here are two definitions of "a", both from Dictionary.com Unabridged:

1. not any particular or certain one of a class or group: a man; a chemical; a house.
2. a certain; a particular

The first would be a foundation for the argument that this would have to apply to ANY democratic society. The second would be more similar to a veiled conditionality statement, as it could be a foundation for saying that you are proving that felons ought to maintain the right to vote in a particular democratic society.
This could be a tough sell depending on your judges, but your opponent would most likely not expect you to define the word "a", much less argue anything based off of it.
(Note: I realize you probably wouldn't want to use a dictionary.com Unabridged definition. There are other definitions that are similar and could potentially lead to the same arguments, although they are not as clear)

That's all for now. More definitions and/or random thoughts to come later.
I would add my own editorializing: unless you have a definition of "retain" like "secure for possible use," I'm not sure the argument that ex-felons are part of the equation (using the broadest legal definition of "felon") will fly.

If "retain" means "keep," or, in other words, "not have taken away," then the Affirmative isn't discussing a world where ex-felons can't vote, because in the affirmative world, they never lose that right. (This also probably requires a general definition of "a," to ward off the clever tactic of promoting one democratic society as typical.

As you can see, those definitions matter muchly.


okiedebater said...

And now, for some example case outlines:

Aff 1
V: Democracy or Justice
Cr: Universal Suffrage
C1: Felon disenfranchisement is applied in a racist way
C2: Felon disenfranchisement is a violation of human rights
C3: Misconceptions about felon disenfranchisement lead to unjust applications of the law

Aff 2
V: Justice
Cr: Utilitarian Punishment
C1: Felon disenfranchisement has no deterrent value
C2: Felon disenfranchisement has no incapacitative value
C3: Felon disenfranchisement increases recidivism

Neg 1
V: Societal Welfare
Cr: The Rule of Law
C1: Felon voting would bring the law into disrepute
C2: Allowing felons to vote is dangerous(this would be based off recidivism rates)

Neg 2
V: Justice
Cr: Hart's Theory of Punishment
C1: Felon disenfranchisement is justified by "distribution"
C2: High recidivism rates justify felon disenfranchisement



-"The Sounds of Silence" by Walter Mosley in Nation, Feb 12th 2007

-"Felon disenfranchisement silences our voice" by Keith Wright and Janelle Edwards-Stewart in New Amsterdam News, Sep 4th 2008

-"ACLU gets involved in debate for voting rights for ex-felons in New Jersey" by Glenn Townes in New York Amsterdam News, Nov 30th 2006

-"Democracy for All: Ending Felon Disenfranchisement" by the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund


-"The Vanishing Black Electorate: Felony Disenfranchisement in Atlanta, Georgia" from The Sentencing Project


-"UK prisoners should get vote, European court rules", The Guardian, Oct 6th 2005


-Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 6 and 21


-"Criminal Offenders Statistics" from the Bureau of Justice Statistics


-"Felon Voting: International Comparison" from ProCon.org

-"Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the United States" from The Sentencing Project

-"Democracy for All: Ending Felon Disenfranchisement" from the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund

-"The Vanishing Black Electorate: Felony Disenfranchisement in Atlanta, Georgia" from The Sentencing Project

-"Criminal Offenders Statistics" from the Bureau of Justice Statistics

-"Felons don't merit automatic rights" from St. Petersburg Times, April 2nd 2007

-"UK prisoners should get vote, European court rules" from The Guardian, Oct. 6th 2005

-Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 29 and 30

-"Criminal Offenders Statistics" from the Bureau of Justice Statistics

-"Punishment" from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

-"Felons don't merit automatic rights" from St. Petersburg Times, April 2nd 2007

-Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Articles 29 and 30

-"Criminal Offenders Statistics" from the Bureau of Justice Statistics
Notes on sources:

-The UDHR can be used for both sides. On the Aff, emphasize Articles 6 (everyone should be recognized as a person before the law) and 21 (everyone has right to take part in government through elections). On the Neg, bring up Articles 29 and 30, which would provide the basis for punishing criminals

-The Bureau of Justice Statistics source has evidence for both sides. On Aff, emphasize the sheer number of people incarcerated and the relative number of minorities. On Neg, the recidivism statistics can be used to argue that it is dangerous to let released felons vote.

ldn00b said...

What should the value be?

I'm thinking about valueing societal welfare, which I'd define as including both justice and benifit. Do you know where I could find a warrent for this?

Roy said...

Cool, fuel to write my first 4 case blocks for this topic.