The proposed January topics for the 2012-2013 Public Forum debate season are now released for voting. Here are the proposed topics:
Resolved: U.S. Federal Government administration of national elections is needed to protect the right to vote.
Resolved: On balance, the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission harms the election process.
I find both of these topics to be interesting and a great opportunity for students, coaches and judges to learn a great deal about the US election process. As the last Presidential election has revealed there are significant issues which impact how election campaigns are conducted and how the process of voter selection and registration can potentially be manipulated.
The first topic is wide open and offers debaters the chance to explore how much federal control of national elections is really necessary. Traditionally states and communities regulate the election process. They establish the rules about who is eligible to vote, where polling places are located, what kinds of devices are used to collect the votes and so on. The federal government ensures that national laws, mainly those enumerated in the US constitution are not violated. However, the federal government, in response to many discrepancies and controversies arising from the Bush-Gore presidential election of 2000 passed the Help America Vote act of 2002. This act created an independent agency to establish guidelines for the states to follow in carrying out elections. In the most recent election between Obama and Romney, certain states citing protection from voter fraud attempted to establish potentially abusive voter registration and identification procedures which were very controversial and seen by many as an attempt to intimidate certain people from registering or voting.
This topic will explore such issues and debate the limits of federal government oversight of states in administering federal elections. A very good topic in my opinion, but very, very broad. Perhaps it is too broad and debaters will need a tub full of evidence. Still, I think it could be interesting for both Pro and Con.
The second topic is another potentially great topic for Public Forum debate. During the recent Obama-Romney campaign, we witnessed first-hand, the results of the Citizens United decision which lifted restrictions on corporate and union contributions to political campaigns. Basically the prior restrictions were seen as an infringement of first amendment free speech rights. The decision opened the flood gates of massive spending in campaign ads and contributions to the candidate's election committees. The history of how this decision came about and the controversy of the decision itself is very interesting and worth researching even if the topic is not selected.
I think this also would be a very good topic for Public Forum debate. It is much more limited than the first proposed resolution but that is a good thing. Debaters will be able to explore this topic to much greater depth and I think the debates could be a lot of fun to judge.