Creating Voting Issues

A voting issue (or “voter”) is a reason for the judge to vote for you. It is run in the last speech for each side.

Imagine that the round ended after the 1AR. You shake the judge’s hand, pack up, and leave the room. The judge goes to the judge’s lounge. In a normal round, you wouldn’t be allowed to go with the judge. But in this world, you can.

You, your partner, your opponents, and the judge walk into a big room full of round tables. You watch as the judge helps herself to some macaroni salad and cucumber water. You sit down at the table. You wait in tense silence as the judge reviews her flow. As a negative speaker, you’re dismayed when you see the judge move her pen toward the Affirmative Win box.

"Wait a second," you say. The judge looks up from her ballot. "There's no possible way you can vote affirmative! They dropped the off-case solvency!"

*judge nods*

"On top of that, the affirmative advantage actually supports the current system. The negative world has everything you need.”

Welcome to your voting issues.

The Impossible Outcome

The voting issue is not an argument you won, it's not even a strong argument that went your way. The voting issue is the argument the judge can't ignore. There's no way you can possibly lose the round with that on the flow: it's an impossible outcome.

There's a huge misconception that argument volume equals argument strength. Debaters will usually run at a minimum 3 if not 4 voting issues in a final rebuttal. I've even seen rounds where competitors are running 5-7. This complicates the judge's decision and makes each individual voter seem insignificant.

Your voting issues are the carefully selected finalists in the series finale of "How I Won This Debate Round." [Streaming on HBO.]

They are not the line of contestants auditioning as an extra for Season 1. Make smart choices.

Think Past Tense

Imagine the tournament is over. The next day, someone asks your judge about the round. The short-term recall fades and the judge's decision is boiled down in a sentence or two.

"Oh, that one? The Aff wanted to send food to Zambia, but Neg pointed out that food aid actually exacerbates poverty. The affirmative dropped this and it was game over."

Voting issues are what the judge remembers the next day. In your mind, the round is done. You’re not going to explain why you should win, but why you already have.

The Voting Guide

A voting issue does not introduce new content. Instead, it helps the judge see the round clearly. It helps him understand why you won. They aren’t refutation, they’re a voting guide.

Think about a way to efficiently sum up some important part of your advocacy. While “Disadvantage Two” is an okay voting issue tag, “Ten Million Dead” is better. Let your tags reflect the importance of the argument: you want judges to feel like they have to vote for you.

Have a debate question? Send me a message, and I might feature the answer in an upcoming blog post!