The November/December 2008 LD Topic is:
Resolved: In a Democratic Society, felons ought to retain the right to vote.
This will be debated in Lincoln-Douglas High School Debate format. This is a one on one debate only.
I will be going on the Affirmative, Scandinavisksoldat will be on the Negative.
I'll start with my Aff Case:
“Without a vote, a voice, I am a ghost inhabiting a citizen’s space...I want to walk calmly into a polling place with other citizens, to carry my placid ballot into the booth, check off my choices, then drop my conscience in the common box”
-Joe Loya, disenfranchised ex-felon
Because I agree with the above quote, I am forced to agree with the resolution:
Resolved: In a democratic society, felons ought to retain the right to vote.
I would like to first provide some resolutional analysis:
The key evaluative term in this resolution is democratic; therefore the appropriate value/criterion clash should be over the fundamental values of democracy.
In order to maximize clarity and minimize confusion, I offer the following definitions:
Democratic Society: A society based on majority rule coupled with guarantees of individual human rights that, in turn, serve to protect the rights of minorities--whether ethnic, religious, or political, or simply the losers in the debate over a piece of legislation. A society which insures all citizens, no matter how wealthy or powerful are just as politically powerful as poorest and weakest citizen.
-Created by me through contextual readings with the core of it formed from United States Federal Government, “What is Democracy” September, 1998.
Felons: One who has committed or been convicted of a felony
-Created by me through contextual readings with most of it supplied through Merriam Webster
My value premise for this round is Human Dignity.
Human Dignity is the dignity that separates us from animals, what makes Human Beings, human.
B. All Individuals have Human Dignity no matter who the Individual Is.
Allen Wood, “Human Dignity: Right and the Realm of Ends” August 7th, 2007
This conception of human dignity goes far beyond the mere repudiation of inegalitarian aristocratic conceptions of the worth of human beings. It is a direct challenge to every conception of human self-worth based on anything at all beyond humanity itself – not only on conceptions based on birth, wealth, power or social status, but even those based on intelligence, talent, achievement, or even moral character.
My value criterion for this round is Political Equality:
Political Equality is the basis of democracy because it makes all citizens in a country, totally equal politically. The rich man is as politically powerful as the poor man because they all have the same voting rights.
This is a fair value and criterion because Human Dignity is the most valuable value in the round because it separates us from other organisms. Political Equality is key to insuring that we end up retaining our Human Dignity
The Right to Vote is Key to Political Equality and Human Dignity:
Chief Justice Dickson of the Canadian Supreme Court, 1985
"It should also be noted, however, that an emphasis on individual conscience and individual judgment also lies at the heart of our democratic political tradition. The ability of each citizen to make free and informed decisions is the absolute prerequisite for the legitimacy, acceptability, and efficacy of our system of self-government. It is because of the centrality of the rights associated with freedom of individual conscience both to basic beliefs about human worth and dignity and to a free and democratic political system that American jurisprudence has emphasized the primacy or "firstness" of the First Amendment.”
Contention Two: Committing a Felon is not a reasonable way to restrict the right to vote
A.Taking away their right to vote is not Just Desserts or Retributive Justice
Jeffrey Reiman,"Liberal and Republican Arguments Against the Disenfranchisement of Felons," The Winter 2005 edition of Criminal Justice Ethics,
Though it is compatible with just retribution, it is a futile form of retribution since most criminals do not even know that their crimes can result in loss of the right to vote and, given the young age at which most crimes are committed, most criminals probably do not care about voting at the time they commit their crimes. Consequently, I contend that disenfranchisement is not sensible punishment policy: it will not deter crime, nor will offenders see it as their just deserts. It is pointless as incapacitation, and it goes without saying that it serves no rehabilitative function.
B. Taking away their rights to vote is unjust and not simply an additional penalty:
Human Rights Watch, “Losing the Vote, the Impact of Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the United States”
Some might argue that disenfranchisement of ex-felons is simply another penalty the state chooses to impose in addition to incarceration, although there is little historical basis for this view. It is questionable whether a state may punish offenders by depriving them of any right it chooses. Would a state be able to punish felons by forever denying them the right to go to court or to petition the government? But even if one assumes that deprivation of the right to vote is a legitimate punishment, then such punishment must conform to the fundamental principles governing criminal sanctions. It should, for example, be imposed by a judge following trial, and it should be proportionate to the offense. Yet none of the states require that disenfranchisement be imposed by a judge as part of a criminal sentence.
C. Taking away the Rights of Citizens is not a just penalty
Rob Rossmeissl, “States deny voting rights for felons” The Badger Herald, September 19, 2005
Regardless of society's views, felons are still American citizens. Whether someone might be considered by most to be a 'bad person' is irrelevant with regards to voting rights. Democracies cannot simply revoke the rights of anyone whom the majority does not care for. By the rationale used to keep felons from voting, it seems that any violation of the law could warrant a loss of rights, but people would likely be upset if jaywalking or a traffic infraction meant they wouldn't be able to select their public officials in the next election.
Contention Three: Taking away a Felon’s Right to Vote takes away their Human Dignity and reduces them to animals:
Human Rights Watch, “Losing the Vote, The Impact of Felony Disenfranchisement Laws in the United States” 1998
Denying the vote to ex-offenders accomplishes little of value. Indeed, it may do more harm than good. Disenfranchisement contradicts the promise of rehabilitation. “The offender finds himself released from prison, ready to start life anew and yet at election time still subject to the humiliating implications of disenfranchisement...[Denying him the vote] is likely to reaffirm feelings of alienation and isolation, both detrimental to the reformation process.” As the National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards and Goals observed, “If correction is to reintegrate an offender into free society, the offender must retain all attributes of citizenship....”
Link to Commentary Thread.