Oct 1, 2008

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

The November/December Lincoln-Douglas debate topic has been released:
In a democratic society, felons ought to retain the right to vote.
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. [pdf]
6. Foucault makes an appearance.
7. Alaska senator Ted Stevens' "moral turpitude" disenfranchises him--but not quite yet.
8. Jason Kuznicki simplifies the connection between the social contract and voting.
9. I critique a couple cases in the latest LD mailbag.
10. Considering social contract neg cases, I ask a critical question.
11. A couple more cases, including two Social Contract negs, come in the mail.
12. I sketch a dignity-based neg.

1. The importance of defining "felons."
2. "Democratic society."
3. Guest blogger OkieDebater defines key terms in his own way.

[A good introduction to different moral stances is here. For novices, some basic resources are here. For information on the Sept/Oct "permissible killing" resolution, go here. Also for novices: which philosophers should you study first?]

Update 12/1/08: The topic for January / February has been posted.


Sexy Beast said...

Yeah! I like this one a lot!

My initial thoughts:

The right to vote is a legal right; legal rights are those granted by a governemnt and may be taken away if the government so chooses

Once a person commits a crime, John Locke states that that person has put himself at war with the entire order of the social contract. No matter what the crime, he states, once a crime has been commited, that person is no longer a member of the social contract and must face retribution from a higher power. And thus, we must negate becuase the felon is no longer a member of the social contract and does not have the right to make decisions regarding it.

Since the poor commit the most crimes in society, would it be possible to argue that we must affirm in order to keep the voices of the poor, and stop a Tyranny of the Majority from occuring?

What is a felony? A felony is more drastic than a misdameanor, for one thing.

And finally, do the felons have the right to vote taken from them forever, or just when the are in prison?

Jim Anderson said...

That last question is crucial. In 14 states, once a felon, always a felon, at least when it comes to voting.

Later today, I'm going to post a review of an article that advances three reasons, including a contractarian perspective, for why felons should be able to vote--even from prison. Should be interesting.

Anonymous said...

Not my first choice, but it could have been a lot worse. Social contract seems like a given criterion. If anyone I debate runs it well I'll be surprised. Sexy Beast actually made a decent point with Rawls. Although I think it's at least marginally discrimination, if you had some decent empirics you could make valuing those who are worse off in society a decent case. Retribution seems to work on both sides. You can say "X punishment isn't enough, so we have to take away their right to vote" on neg. On aff, you can say "X punishment exacted retribution, so the additional loss of freedom is unjust". The "a democratic society" part gives way to plan texts/conditional/U.S. specific argumentation, but I haven't done enough thought on it to make that really be important.

Anonymous said...

A felon is an opinion. To a muslim wearing a swim suit is a crime to allah. To christains commiting adultry is a felon to god. But we still vote. The decleration of independence says that ALL CITIZENS have the duty to vote. They are still a citizen even if they commit a crime.

Sexy Beast said...

Just a little more thoughts:

As anon. 2 points out, 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?

A just democracy operates under Mill's Market Place of Ideas almost consistently. Every citizen has a say in making decisions, and (hopefully) every idea is thoroughly disscussed and debated before being implemented, as the Marketplace of Ideas mandates for a Just Government. So wouldn't the Marketplace of Ideas negate the resolution, because not every citizens voice is being acknowledged?

Citizens may be wrongfully convicted as a felon. Do these citizens deserve to suffer no voice on top of retribution?

If we strive for equality in a just government, then how is treating certain people differently ever just?

A felon is forced to face retribution, both governmental and social. Does a felon really need more punishment than what a legal system sentences?

Does restricting liberties unequally violate Human Worth?

I would, as the affirmative, construct my thesis for affirming upon the fact that in a democracy, everyone deserves the right to vote.

And I realize that this is all affirmative thought processes, I will come up with some negatives soon.

Sexy Beast said...

Oh, and thanks for the updates and insight, Jim. Since we are debating this resolution for the first tournament of the year, I really appreciate the help.

okiedebater said...

I'm excited about this topic! I was hoping for jury nullification since I already had some analysis, but this one is a great one to start the year with.

Some early, unrefined thoughts:

1) Democratic society- this means that it is not US-centric. If the Aff is only arguing constitutionality or anything that is only related to the US, could that be considered conditionally upholding the resolution? Time to brush up on my UDHR...

2) It's already been addressed, but the variable definition of "felons" is key. Felonies vary between countries, so how can we pin down a set, universally-applicable list?
Also, there are many different dictionary definitions, some saying those who have committed a felony, others saying those convicted of a felony. In this case, those who commit the same felony could be treated differently. Some could retain their right to vote, others might not. This could potentially lead to race/socio-economic background discrimination arguments.

3) Retain- Does this mean recover AFTER a prison term, or maintain throughout the prison term? If the Neg can define it as the second, it could help them significantly.

4) Even non-felons are capable of bad judgment. If we are disenfranchising felons b/c of a bad decision and/or bad decision-making, 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?

5) 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.

This are just some of my early thoughts. Hopefully some better developed ideas will come. :)

Sexy Beast said...

A kid who went to camp with you, Okie, from my school was talking about using the UDHR. How exactly would you plan on utilizing that on this particular resolution?

Anonymous said...

Are there any truly democratic societies? The U.S. as a nation (and maybe as a society) is a republic.

okiedebater said...

Check out Articles 1, 2, 7, 21, and 29.


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a good way of making arguments that are more universal and less US-centric.

Some ways this could be used:

Article 21 (3) speaks of "universal and equal suffrage". It is not truly universal if we deny people their right to vote. If we are willing to deny the right to vote in these cases, there is a risk of becoming even more restrictive in an unjust way.

Article 1 speaks of people being "endowed with reason and conscience". If we are saying that felons always have bad judgment (which is not true), it could be seen as denying this to some extent.

Article 29 (2) states "In the exercise of his rights and freedoms, everyone shall be subject only to such limitations as are determined by law solely for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and of meeting the just requirements of morality, public order and the general welfare in a democratic society."
This works perfectly as it demonstrates the universally-accepted idea of limiting rights when it is infringing upon the rights of others (like for felons). It even contains the words "in a democratic society", which is just an added plus and seems to tie it in even better.

Overall, the UDHR can often make a good alternative to the Constitution when talking about non-US topics.

Caution: Look over all of the UDHR though, because there are rights that many countries are violating. Just like several years ago in the UN/national sovereignty/human rights topic, if UDHR is used, the fact that pretty much every country is in violation of it is sure to come up.

Jim Anderson said...

anonymous, it doesn't matter, since we're going to be debating what "ought" to be, not what is. The basic approach I'd take:

1. Establish the values of a democratic society.
2. Explain why felon voting does, or doesn't, fulfill or line up with or logically complete (or some kind of verb) those values.

Jim Anderson said...

sexy beast, the Lockean social contract is one of the major topics of the article I review here. Reiman, suffice it to say, has a ready response to the social contract argument.

Sexy Beast said...

So, here's some strong affirmative arguments that I've come across:

Felons have already faced retribution.

Felons that can vote are much less likely to go on and commit crimes.
-A Sentencing Project study that tracked released felons from 1997 through 2000 found that those who voted were less than half as likely to be rearrested as those who did not — or could not — vote.

Democracy means that every citizen has a voice.
-Felons are still citizens, they are forced to live and operate under the governments jurisdiction.

I'm thinking about using some of these for the affirmative; they seem pretty sound.

Sexy Beast said...

And here's some criteria that may be effective:

Foucault's normalization theory

Mills Marketplace of Ideas

The Universal Decleration of Human Rights

And I'm sure there are plenty others. What do you think, Jim?

Jim Anderson said...

Mr. Beast,

Much good stuff there. In fact, in the coming days, I'll have more detailed analysis (with academic support) going over many of those exact points. I'm starting with a great article called "Lock Them Up and Throw Away the Vote," which I've already cited elsewhere.

sexy beast said...

Excellent. I love how productive and helpful this site is.

Cushing said...

Rod, quit posting my case outlines.

Jerk. :)

Sexy Beast said...

Haha, your funny Aric!

(not really)

Anonymous said...

what about neg criterion
most of this seems towards the affirmitive side
im using the example that if a teenager refuses to do his chores
then he or she gets privalidges taken away. such as a cell phone or car. so the same princaple should be applied.

Shun the Nonbeliever said...

The resolution is about rights, not privileges.

Anonymous said...

I've found about 0 neg literature. Every law review I've read goes over the two common affirmative arguments: forfeiture and the "purity of the ballot box." After explaining the arguments, the writers give about 10 reasons as to why each argument is straight up wrong. Any ideas people?

Sexy Beast said...

Locke says that if you don't respect the laws, then you shouldn't have a say in them. Actually he says a lot more than that, but that sums up why we must negate.

tree said...

I was talking with one of my friends on the team about this one, and we found some evidence (though I don't have handy, it's easy to find) that talks about how the majority of felons are minorities and so by stripping them of their ability to vote was almost like opressing the vote of the minority.

Sexy Beast said...

1 in 7 black men can't vote, according to the Sentencing Project.

Anonymous said...

just to state a fact, wearing a swim suit is not a crime to allah for muslims... but intially like voting is a governmental right but so is like freedom. if the government can take away the right to vote they could eventually take the right to life

LLdebate said...

I have a question about this topic: Although it states that it is a democratic society, would examples of the United States be too limiting? Should I include examples or evidence from out of the US?

Jim Anderson said...

LL, definitely go outside the U.S. (There are some international cases at one of the analytical links above.)

Among democracies, the U.S. has the harshest disenfranchisement laws in the world. If you use only American examples, you might overstate the Affirmative case (in particular), since (to my knowledge) the U.S. has the only lifelong disenfranchisement, at least in 14 states.

(The other thing: the law varies from state to state, which is why we have to focus on "societies" and not on any one society, state, or nation.)

Etawar said...

How does one warrant the use of the Lockean Social Contract and theory of rights? Its so easy to use, but I cant find a way to answer if someone asked me why we should use his theories.


wildDiva said...

This is an awesome blog!!! and very helpful!!
Im a beginner in this but i do have some ideas to contribute, and maybe you could constructivley critisize them :p

my ideas for an aff. case-
what about using utilitarianism, the greatest good for the greatest # of people, over the greatest length of time?
and using misanthropy as a mental harm caused by the democratic societies to the felon, by social isolation (taking away a social right to vote)??

alexis de tocqueville is a good philosopher to use, i think...

Prison changes a person, it rehabilitates them. so they SHOULD be able to vote when they get out of prison. It makes you a diffrent better person... so wouldnt they be more morally quallified to vote than even you know that they have gone through this? dont mistakes cause you to learn?

Neg. case:

social contract

Immanuel Kant : the morality depends on the action itself, reguardless of the consequences of the action..

If your in prison and rights or laws, such as gun control laws (cuz you cant have guns in prison), dont affect you, why should you, at the time, why should you have a say in them?!

oceanix said...

I was thinking about, at least for the neg, defining felons specifically as one who commits felony murder. Also, don't try to debate this in the United States solely. If you do, I imagine you'll get hammered. It says, "in a democratic society", not the US government. Just try not to concentrate your arguments on the US.

Jim Anderson said...

oceanix, I'm not sure what you mean by "specifically as one who commits felony murder." If you're limiting your definition to only murderers, then you're going to struggle against an Aff with a solid definition of "felon." If, however, you mean that you're trying to pin down the Aff on the point that they have to defend suffrage for even murderers, then you're right.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone come by statistics that show most crimes are committed by the poor (or out of self-interest)?

Jim Anderson said...

anonymous, here's about the best you're going to find, statistically speaking. (You'd have to read the original article--perhaps through a library database--for the numbers.)

Anonymous said...

everyone is only talking about the Aff side can anyone tell me any arguments on NEG side?plz?!

mona said...

everyone is sharing their comments on AFF side but can someone say something about the NEG side too? any ideas?!plz

Anonymous said...

How do you respond to the affirmative argument that it is the government's duty to mend the harmed community by re integrating the felons back into the society by giving them back the right to vote?

MangoMan said...

Is there any way to refute the Affirmative contention that because the majority of felons are minorities, by not allowing felons to vote the views of a large portion of the population are not being heard? What about the simple fact that the majority of democracies in the world are currently moving towards adopting laws that will allow felons to vote?

Jim Anderson said...

anonymous, don't cede that much to the Affirmative. Note that the resolution says "retain." That means that the Affirmative (if you carefully define your terms) must defend voting for incarcerated felons. You can argue that former felons aren't the focus of this resolution. In an affirmative world, they'd never lose the right to vote.

Jim Anderson said...

mangoman, I'd like to see evidence that in democratic societies, and not only in the U.S., felons are disproportionately members of ethnic minority groups.

To the second question, the resolution concerns what "ought" to be, not what "is," or even what's coming in the future. Look at the reasoning behind that movement for your answer. (I discuss a few international court cases here.)

Matt said...

I don't know about internationally but there are some crazy U.S statistics about Minority imprisonment on Hrw.org.

Also I would bring up something like the 2000 Presidential election in Florida. In Florida there are some 400,000 Disenfranchised voters which would have been enough percentage based to turn Florida is Gores favor, which, would have impacted world politics and the lives of those felons as well. So by Depriving them the right to chose their leader you are excluding them from the democratic process which destroys the foundations of a democracy.

Etawar said...

My question was skipped, I'm still lost and would appreciate any help.

How does one warrant the use of the Lockean Social Contract and theory of rights? Its so easy to use, but I cant find a way to answer if someone asked me why we should use his theories.


mona said...

can someone tell me please what is "UDRH"???

Jim Anderson said...

etawar, sorry about that--I meant to point you to this intro essay about his political philosophy, but somehow it skipped my mind. Locke is seen as one of the foundational philosophers in the world of democratic theorizing. The essay, among other things, explains why.

mona, that's "UDHR," as in, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Anonymous said...

hey can anyone send me thier cases, i wont copy them, i just want to get an idea of what a good case looks like (first time debating)


thanks alot

x3boxofficestarletx3 said...

Would cateogircal imperative be a bad value for the neg?

Jim Anderson said...

xboxetc, is the Categorical Imperative a democratic principle, or is it a moral imperative that transcends any particular political / social system? A good Aff would argue that its absolutist nature doesn't square very well with the provisional, pluralist concepts of a democracy, for example.

Jaycie said...

Okay, i have a deabte on saturday. I just barely got the topic. Thank Heaven I found this site. I have my aff case all done and I think it's pretty solid. I was wondering of anyone could point me towards good neg points. I'm not trying to take your ideas, I promise, but I just need some place to start. Thank you anybody!!

Sexy Beast said...

I'll give you the very basic structure of mine, but I can explain if you need me to.

V- Democracy- Defined by John Locke as “A state of society characterized by a fair distribution of rights and privileges. Rights may only be taken away if a citizen attempts to deprive others of rights.”

C- Respecting Locke's Social Contract Theory

Contention 1. Affirming fails to respect John Locke’s Social Contract. A. If you violate the basic rules of society, then you lose your ability to participate in society.

B. A democracy requires disenfranchisement of felons.

Anonymous said...

why does a democracy require disenfranchisement of felons?

Jaycie said...

thanks sexy beast. do you have any other contentions or anything that could support the Locke theory? or just any more in general? and could you explain your "disenfranchisement of felons" requirement?

lariencalalen said...

Can't the aff also bring up the fact that a 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."

Sexy Beast said...

Anon, I explain in my case, it has to do with right distribution and the quote "We can't let the law breakers to become the law makers."

Jaycie, I link my arguments back to the criterion in my contentions.

Larien, I completely agree with your argument, and use that in my affirmative case. I pretty much extend it to ask the question, "Why must felons lose specifically the right to vote, when they already lose so many other rights?"

I can email my cases to you guys if you want me to, but sparingly.

Jaycie said...

Sexy beast,
i would love to read your case if that is alright with you. this is my first debate and i just don't have a really good place to start on the neg side. if it is okay with you that i read it, my email is jayciesmiller@gmail.com

if you would rather i didn't read it, i understand and thank you for your help. i kind of know what to do now. thanks!!

BabyJ said...

okay, i found something that i think i could use but i don't know if there is anything to prove it by. if anyone could help me that would be great. it's for the neg case.

people who commit felonies usually havea disjointed sense of right and wrong so they wouldn't be able to make a good/rational choice in voting.

if anyone has any type of info on this and you wouldn't mind sharing, that would be great. thank you.

Anonymous said...

Just thought I'd put in my two cents:

I am going to be running a value of utilitarianism: first, because democracies are ran by utility - the majority rules. second, utility establishes the need for social progression, because the greatest good is always being strived for.

I am going to spike my definition of democracy with the idea that voting is the means of change in a democracy and the ultimate mode of free expression of opinion.

Then, I am going to run a value criterion of free discourse. This is basically going to run along the lines of John Stewart Mill. For in depth analysis on his "Marketplace of Ideas" stuff, check out the book "On Liberty."

The basic premise is, as JSM puts it, "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.”

Free discourse 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.

I go so far as to say, in my case, 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.

At that point, you can opt out of social contract garbage by defining ought as desirability (black's law) and saying that while it could even be a duty of the government to expel a man from society for committing crime, it is undesirable, because his deviant opinion may allow forward social progression.

Anonymous said...

Hi Sexy Beast
Saturday is my very 1st time debating.
(I haven't even debated congress.)
Can you e-mail me some tips? I can show you my cases if you want. I think my aff case is solid, but i wasn't able to refute well in a mock debate that we held (and i lost the debate.)
My neg case isn't very strong and it is also short. I would be very grateful for some help. Thank you
My e-mail is cathyrockzx3@aim.com
Thank you SOOO much.
This website has helped me a lot already.

defeatedstar said...

To Baby J, that's a biased opinion and its easily refuted.
Basically, you can't prove that felons don't have the mental equivalence to nonfelons. Those who aren't felons may not have good decision making skills, perhaps even less than the felons.

Jon Jones said...

In defence of Baby J, one must debate both the affirmative and negative, so to call it his "opinion" first off may have been a little brash. Second, I think it would be less biased than true. Felons violate laws which are created for the protection of rights, and thus display a disregard for the shared moral status that equal rights maintain. They transgress the laws of the people, and declare themselves to abide by other laws which deny common equity. They put themselves in a state of war with the legislature, in a democracy, the people. For a bit of impact analysis, have some Glover, "All humans have inherit worth, and insofar as human obligations exist prior to and supersede governmental obligations, atrocities that harm other humans is the same as making the statement that their human dignity is not respected. To acknowledge our shared moral status makes it harder for us to do crimes against each other, the erosion of this protective barrier creates danger. When one tramples on the dignity of another he tramples on his own inhibitions, and massacre may not be far off.”

And yes, I encourage using that in your case.

Anonymous said...

sexy beast. im a novice and i was wondering if i could take a look at your cases. i have no idea what i am going lol.

Anonymous said...

I was wondering-
If we used Mill's Marketplace of Ideas as our value criterion, what would our BRIGHTLINE be?

(b/c i used it in my case, and i just realized i have no concrete way of measuring whether or not my VC has been achieved)

Anonymous said...

hey sexy beast i am a novice this year and i have no idea what im doin would you mind emailing me your cases to see how to write and develop my cases. my coach doesnt help at all =\


Jim Anderson said...

anonymous writing about Mill's marketplace, that's a great question. Mill himself used the "harm principle" as foundational to the concept. You might set up your V/C thusly: value is the free exchange of ideas (the "marketplace"); criterion is the Harm Principle.

You can find that exact line of reasoning laid out here.

Anonymous said...

thank you Jim! (for the mill's v and vc explanation)

Can you read over my cases? I am a novice and have never debated ANYTHING before.
( I posted this earlier on the website too)

If you would like to help me, my e-mail is cathyrockzx3@aim.com
Thank you

Anonymous said...

How do you refute the negative argument that felons can't vote while they're in jail because they don't have all of their rights and are therefore not citizens combined with the observation that the affirmative must prove that felons should always retain, even in jail, the right to vote? Thanks!

Jim Anderson said...

anonymous, the very first link under "Articles and Analysis" is where you should head first. As is pointed out in the article under review, felons may lose some rights, but they're still citizens. (Consider, for example, that they are still protected from "cruel and unusual" punishment, can sue from prison, have rights of appeal, etc.)

Anonymous said...

I thought that a citizen had to have all the rights a nation had to offer. Or are there different definitions out there?

Anonymous said...

Sexybeast would you mind sending me your cases? I am a novice this year and this is actually my first topic debating. Your cases would really help me out seeing as though my coach doesnt do anything....

my email address is upandajo@aol.com


Jim Anderson said...

first anonymous, citizenship and voting are not coextensive; their relationship is complex and at times murky. For example, children have citizenship but can't vote.

Anonymous said...

Some people are running the "democracy's have no rules argument." It says we should never make universal policy prescriptions, but let the democracy decide. I'm not sure how it really negates, but people are running it. Any thoughts?

Jim Anderson said...

Anonymous, I'd be curious to hear someone else's take on that argument (which I haven't come across yet). How it would negate the resolution is beyond me, since both sides are operating within a democratic framework. Besides, "let democracy decide" sure sounds like a universal policy prescription....

Anonymous said...

I had the following value and criterion for the Neg: Value Safety.
Criterion common sense. We don't have these felons vote because that could endanger our safety as a people. sure, we came to this country for freedom, but we also came here for safety from oppression, corruption, and people that are unfit and unneeded in society. people still come to this "land of freedom" for the same reasons. Common sense pertains to safety because it is the basic knowledge of good and bad that keeps us safe. No one with common sense would touch a lit stove top. it is common sense that keeps us safe, and it is common sense that doesn't allow these maniacs to vate.

What do you think? Hope I helped someone looking for a negative argument.

tyler_09 said...


The "common sense" argument seems like it would be good at first glance, but thats where it stops.
using the "its just common sense" idea the neg would be able to say that well in the 1800's it was common sense that african americans shouldnt be allowed to vote, that in the 1800's it was just common sense that women ought to stay in the home and let their man vote for them.

i strongly urge everyone to stay away from the 'common sense' or the 'can't trust their judgement' contentions.
youre opening a big can of hurt if you hit an opponent that knows their stuff

now for my own question...
when arguing against the social contract (jefferson's in particular) what would be the best method in doing so?


chubbles said...

im thinking about running a value of morality instead of democracy. Because the word ought, which implies whats moral and imoral and because not all democratic societies are moral
any thoughts?

Jim Anderson said...

chubbles, morality is a fine value; but be aware that you don't need to attack democracy on either side, since both Aff and Neg are arguing about what ought to be in a democratic society.

New Debater 101 said...

can anyone send a negative case, b/c i don't really understand the neg side...well i do, but i really can't have argumentation on it;so please, if anyone can send me a neg case or with an aff(so i can make points) then please help...


Anonymous said...

For Affirmative I'm arguing that taking away felons' right to vote is not proportional punishment because it generally has nothing to do with the crimes they committed. How do I counter the negative example about how in many democracies such as Germany and France, the judge can specifically assign a sentence of not allowing the felon to vote if they commit certain crimes such as voting fraud?

Jim Anderson said...

anonymous, both sides have to argue the point about all--or, at very least, the vast majority of--felons, not just election-thieves. So, there may be an inconsequential number of election-thieves who might get to vote, but they are far and away a tiny, tiny minority among felons.

Anonymous said...

What exactly is the purpose of a Democracy? I'm trying to evaluate how we should decide what a democracy "ought to do" and I'm getting kind of confused. Like would the purpose be to promote justice or equality or something entirely different? How should we decide what a democratic society should do?

Anonymous said...

Can you just say that if no reason can be provided which justifies taking away a felon's right to vote then they ought to retain it? Or do you have to some how warrant that?

Anonymous said...

Is there any way to prove that felons are still citizens and should still contribute to the policy making process?

Jim Anderson said...

First Anonymous, no reason = arbitrary, and therefore violating governmental legitimacy, the social contract, justice--you name it.

Second Anonymous, poke around in those links up there, and I think you'll like what you find.

New Debater said...

hey can anyone help me with contentions on the Neg side?

eastsong25 said...

i read that article on three purposes for disenfranchisement... i honestly cannot think of any other points besides these... but theyre soo typical! i just a thing or two that might catch the aff off guard... anyone have something i might be able to use??

Justice-Is-Calling said...

How do you block the NEG argument that felons should not retain (hold) the right to vote, but felons can be RESTORED (given back) the right to vote, and the two are different things? I personally hate this argument, but it is bound to come up against the AFF. Any blocks?

Anonymous said...

Do felons pay taxes? Because then that means they would be active members of society. But I can't seem to find any specific laws anywhere.

Stressed LDer said...

HELP! Tournament is in a couple of hours, and I didn't know I was doing Ld until this morning! What are some basic blocks I should use at the tournament? I know that Social cnotract will be abig on the negative side, how do i rebutt that?

Anonymous said...


rohan said...

this came up against me in my debate and i just used the definition of retain that okie debater had from princeton wordnet ("keep in possession or maintain for possible future use" or something of that sort)
my opponent said that the def doesn't make sense, but i drew an analogy to retirement accounts
u put money and u can't take it out (w/out a penalty) but its still ur money...ur just gonna use it later
or CD's...same deal

@ anon: yes they do pay taxes (they're still citizens and they make money...)
"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."
Steve Chapman
Columnist and Editorial Writer
Chicago Tribune

thats my quote for that...not exactly taxes but same point

Anonymous said...

I want to point out something. Most of the people here are talking about recovering the right to vote once they are released from prison. However, retaining means that they keep it, even in prison.

Martin said...

I have a major source of confusion about the social contract:
The social contract is the hypothetical contractual agreement between a person an a government that provides for the existence of society. (true statement i think?)The person gives away some rights for a gurantee that the rest of his or her rights will be protected. "I give away my right of liberty to kill someone. that person's right to life is protected" so my confusion is about the relationship between punishment and the social contract. If someone breaks the law by commiting a felony then the most basic essence of the social contract theory says that then the contract is broken so the felon is no longer a member of society. Philosophically that makes sense, however except for capital punishment, countries dont/cant really just kick someone out of society. Following the notion of the social contract a government would/could just kill everyone who breaks the contract, because the gov. doesnt have an obligation to protect that person's right/life but would deem that person a possible threat to other people that it does have an obligation to protect. Of course however it would seem outrageous (not to mention rather inhumane and immoral) to kill someone for stealing a sandwich.
To conclude: besides the implication that when the social contract is broken the gov. could just kill that person i.e. they are no longer a member of society, besides that, what is the connection between social contract theory and punishment/ the warrants for punishment.

Jim Anderson said...

Martin, incarceration is the sort of social exclusion that says to the felon, you can no longer stay in society; you must stay "outside," locked up inside prison walls. Or, as a last resort, there's always denaturalization and deportation.

Anonymous said...

I have a question about the social contract. Does it actually say anywhere in Locke's social contract that if an individual commits a crime then he should be kicked out of society? I've been reading through the second treatise of government and I don't see anything like that anywhere.

norviewgirl said...

yes hi
i am currently doing ned in LD
my value is: Retributive justice
vc:societal welfare

but i am having alot of trouble writing contentions and not sure it that is a good value or value criteron

Gilder said...

Yea so I know this is pretty u.s. specific only but a decent idea for the negative argument was that the constitution promises us the right to bear arms but when someone is convicted of a gun felony it is accepted that they waive that right I know that there are holes with that but it could be used in someway any thoughts?

Gilder said...

I meant to right they waive the right to bear arms

Henry C. said...

Ok, seeing as I am most likely not debating this topic anymore (no more tournaments on this topic for me), I'll give my thoughts.

The right to vote is essentially an opinion--one's political expression or opinion towards a certain party, candidate, belief, platform, etc. We can tell a vote is an opinion because it's bias.

I'll use an example:

Citizen A votes for a certain party and has not committed a felony.

Citizen B votes for the same party Citizen A votes, but has committed a felony.

What's the problem?

Who is to say that a felon's opinion is less than that of another individual? Because an opinion is just that--one's personal bias and partiality.

So by limiting the right to vote, we can see that it's also limitation of freedom of expression and no democratic society would ever want that. That's not what ought to be done.

Well, I had a harder time with the neg.

When we're talking about a felony, we're talking about heinous crimes that is seen not only as a crime towards the individual, but is also seen as a crime towards society. If I murdered you (a heinous crime), I violated your right to life. Why should I be given the right to vote when I took away your right to life? So we can see that the right to life must be placed above the right to vote (duh). Lets not give when others are taking.

Also, the right to vote is a right given to the citizens on behalf of a democratic society (which has institutions such as government), so if we can give a right, we can also take away that right. And then you can go on saying that the right to vote is justified in taking away because blah blah blah.

Just me opinion :)

Henry C. said...

Just to add to my previous post...we must realize that both the Affirmative and the Negative have to debate within the context of a democratic society--so always link whatever you say to what is ought to be done in a democratic society. Sounds simple, but it can become an easy mistake if you get carried away.

Furthermore, it's fine if you use the United States as an example, but do not go any further than that. If you bring up the United States, you must realize that there are also other nations who may not have the same policies or procedures as the U.S. but are STILL considered democratic. Conditionally focusing on the U.S. can be disasterous.

Finally, when we talk about a democratic society, we can easily narrow down the definition. Obviously the resolution is not talking about a limited, representative, etc. democratic society, so we cannot be specific to any one of those. HOWEVER, every single democratic society contains elements and qualities that make them democratic in the first place. That's where you can start your arguments--basing them off the qualites any democratic society would entail. It gives you a better sense of control and that's always a plus.

Gilder said...

yea I see how the definition of democracy here could be very useful Im on a high school debate team that is still very new and when we first debated this topic the 2 debaters kept saying U.S. I didnt tell them anything cause I figured I could save it for now lol but yea im trying to come up with a good definition for democratic society

lder said...

I dont understand the relationship between social contract theory and how societies actually function. Under the basic social contract premise- anyone who breaks a law "looses" the obligation that the government had to protect its rights. So to use a common example say someone is caught speeding then shouldn't that person be killed. The government has obligations to protect its citizens and their rights from someone who would speed( thereby potentially causing harm to others). The basic way for the government to fulfill its obligations would be the most cost effective- so as to maximize its ability to fulfill its obligations. Prison and exportation would be more expensive than killing. I think this example highlights my lack of understanding of how social contract philosophy interacts with punishment.
Agreement? Disagreement? Explanations?

Gilder said...

No I think the social contract doesnt mean breaking the law in general it means when you do something against someone elses rights and it doesnt mean death in particular it means that at that point the government doesnt have to hold up its end of the bargain by guaranteeing you your rights to some extent Idk im pretty new to the social contract as well so I might be wrong but I hope I was helpful

Henry C. said...

John Locke's social contract essentially attemps to explain a (democratic) government. Why? The individual forms a relationship with the government--the individual gives up some of his or her own rights & abides by the law and the government in turn provides protection.

If you violate a speeding law, you're not going to killed lol. The resolution is talking SPECIFICALLY about felons--a heinous crime. Violating a speeding law is not seen as a crime against society. However, when we're talking about crimes such as murder, rape, arson, etc., crimes that involve violation of the right to life or property, then those individuals violated the social contract to a GREATER degree and thus taking away the right to vote is justified.

Also, we need to remember that if a government can give a right, it can also be justified in taking away that right.

Gilder said...

I have been working on my neg argument for a while and finnaly finished it and I have found alot of great affirmitive literature but for the life of me I cant seem to be able to start an argument for the aff can anyone send me a outline for one or a small argument to help me get the right idea dmnyoshi@hotmail.com I have to win this debate if that cocky kid in my school wins another and starts talking like hes some sort of deity again I have no idea what I am going to do

Gilder said...

I have been working on my neg argument for a while and finnaly finished it and I have found alot of great affirmitive literature but for the life of me I cant seem to be able to start an argument for the aff can anyone send me a outline for one or a small argument to help me get the right idea dmnyoshi@hotmail.com I have to win this debate if that cocky kid in my school wins another and starts talking like hes some sort of deity again I have no idea what I am going to do

Justice-Is-Calling said...

Hello, I am thinking of running Mill's marketplace of ideas on the Aff side. Does anybody have good ideas on how to make this work extremely well?

So far I would just argue that in Mill's Marketplace of Ideas everyone's voice and opinion (or vote) needs to be mentioned and taken notice of. Whether that opinion is voted for by the majority doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is that the opinion (or vote) was included.

Also i would mention that felons cannot corrupt this democratic society by their vote unless the majority of the citizens agreed with them anyway.

Anymore Ideas???


Anonymous said...

That's pretty good Justice-Is-Calling. You have the basic concept down, now how about the impacts of contaminating the MoI with authoritative interference?

An obvious one is denying truth (which is the goal of the MoI) because felons are just as capable of donating useful views and ideas as any other citizen. The other, perhaps bigger impact would be invalidating democracy. Look to history as a warrant for this impact. What has happened when a person or select group of people tried to selectively mold the marketplace of ideas? It brought about totalitarianism/dictatorship (Think Hitler and Stalin)

Good luck!

Justice-Is-Calling said...

Okay so I wrote an AFF Marketplace of Ideas case here's how it goes

V- Societal Progress

Cr- Mill's Marketplace of Ideas

C1- One's vote is one's own opinion and bias on a matter. Felons cannot hve their own opinions surpressed.

C2- MMoI must be applied to this society's democratic process in order to insure societal prgress as well as democracy.

SA- MMoI based on the concept of free exchange market... explain...

SB- MMoI is most important concept in the democratic process... blah....

C3- In order to achive MMoI everyone must retain right to vote.

SA- All ideas must be expressed freely in order to achieve progress. It doesn't matter whether the opinion is good or bad, the society still benefits from it.

SB- Felons thus must be goven right to vote.

SC- Democracy is inly insured if felons are allowed to participate in the democratic process... they are still citizens... blah, blah, blah...

So I read this to my fellow debaters and they attacked me on this...

-If the society thinks that mass genocide will progress it, then is it justifiable under MMoI? (Just as Hilter believed killing Jews would help Germany and many agreed with him, can we still use MMoI?)

Anyone have good counters, other than saying what the heck and condoning mass genocide (becasue I might end up doing so... lol...jk jk)?


Jim Anderson said...

If the society truly believes mass genocide is the answer, wouldn't it be safer to argue that it has abandoned all pretense at being democratic? As anonymous noted above, totalitarians take control of the marketplace of ideas, they don't let it function as democrats do.

Anonymous said...

You should be ok for that attack. Just point out that Hitler/Germany were not a democratic state so their attack is non-topical/irrelevant. They were a totalitarian/fascist state where power was centralized in the hands of the minority which allowed them to control the marketplace of ideas (and by the use of coercive force, they controlled the mass population against their free will). This is in direct contrast with a democracy in which the majority has the greater influence on the marketplace. So obviously the hitler analogy doesn't work.

If they bring up the "what if game" (ie what if the majority condones genocide, etc.) you could probably just bail out by saying that your opponent is being conditional to a scenario that has neither been warranted or proven to be likely whatsoever. You could also say that because democracy is the stated value in the resolution, his case has the same flaw making his attack hypocritical. It is also non-unique on the level that it has almost nothing to do with the resolution and could happen to any democracy in the world, regardless of franchising felons or not.

Hope I helped =]

Justice-Is-Calling said...

Thank you so much Jim and Anonymous!

failure at all things failable said...

for a negative argument, what about trying that felons lose their right to citizenship by attacking society thus losing their right to vote by definition of citizen? my team has been trying this one and i was wondering if it totally sucked or what?

Jim Anderson said...

failure, before you run with that, consider:

1. Not all citizens can vote. (Children are natural-born citizens.)

2. Felons don't lose all their legal rights; they can still sue the government, for example, for cruel and unusual punishment, and can appeal their cases.

Matt said...

I have an idea for a Neg contention and want to see what you guys think

The First clause(in a democratic society) and the second(felons ought to retain the right to vote)are inherently contradictory. In a democracy there is not ought or ought now. The entire point of a democratic society is that of popular sovereignty and saying that something OUGHT to happen is undemocratic.

Jim Anderson said...

Matt, interesting point. It essentially takes "democratic" to be descriptive rather than normative. How would you escape the charge of nihilism, though? Don't democratic societies still have to protect *some* kind of morality or value structure? Or is it just "whatever the majority says?"

Jim Anderson said...

Another question that gets to the heart of the issue: *why* should people in a democratic society follow the dictates of the majority?

Matt said...

Ah you see democracy is nothing but an idea based upon popular sovereignty. The idea that every democracy has moral codes is because every democracy usually has a constitution. Also It is not nihilist because I am not advocating the absence of morals or values because some things such as life are natural human rights guaranteed to all so thus fall out of democratic jurisdiction(if the aff tried to argue that voting has a natural human right then you simply say that it cannot be because it is denied to children-therefore is not categorical)

To answer your second question, in theory a democracy is a rule by the people, strictly a majority. Not to sound like Rousseau but a Democratic society is based upon general will.

As to the question why they should follow the majority, this confuses me a little bit. If people refused to follow popular sovereignty(which is not necessarily majority rule) the society would cease to be a democracy...


I was thinking on this idea today in my speech and debate class and my friend and I came up with a case revolving around this idea...

V: Democracy
CV: Moral Freedom(or some other phrasing of the following explanation) A democratic society is based upon the idea of popular sovereignty. in order to maintain this sovereignty the society must be free to chose its own morals and values and not have outside ideas imposed upon them without popular consent. Thus respecting moral freedom is respecting democracy.

C1. A democracy OUGHT to do nothing.(same as original point)

c2. A system that works for one society may not work for another. SO therefore we cannot establish a system of justice that is universal and must let each society choose. (I back this up by essentially asking "who's justice is the most just?"

Of course I need to find a definition of ought that is applicable...

What is your ideas on this case? I lost two rounds using the SC based case because people seem to have adapted to it, so either I need to try something else or fix my case and I think this one would be interesting(although I need to add something as a failsafe for nihilism)

Kody Larsen said...

hey sexy beast um can i get your name? i would like to quote you, but it would really sound wierd if a man like me said "sexy beast says" please have some mercy! thank you!

Anonymous said...

I'm confused about what a "felon" is in terms of this debate. Are we debating just those who have committed felonies and are in jail, or are we also debating felons who have already served their time in jail?

Anonymous said...

ok for my aff case im wanting to run democracy for my value. now, i am still contemplating on what to run as a vc. Would someone please explain and define "sanctity of rights" and explain how i dould incorporate it into my case...

IslamicScholar said...

I'm debating this resolution for the first time. I really want to know how I would run my affirmative case. But in my negative, Since we aren't talking about a true democracy as in "A government for the people by the people" then I would also want to emphasize that also.

does anyone have some good cards for this resolution?

Anonymous said...

Wow.! U All REally Suck.! U Should See Soldan Debaters.!!!!