Everyone does the 2AR differently. Some people use the exact same voting issues and illustrations in every round, while others opt to not have any voting issues at all. Still others choose to opt for a middle ground, dividing their time between refutation and voters. You definitely should utilize the strategy that works best for you– my word is far from law. But with that being said, I’d like to explain why I believe that 2ARs are for voting issues, not refutation or a mixture of both.
Why only voting issues?
- Voting issues put you back on offense
In most policy debate rounds, the roles of the affirmative and negative become confused. Oftentimes, instead of the affirmative team taking an aggressive stance and the negative being forced to defend the status quo, they instead spend the majority of their time defending their plan from the negative’s attacks. Regardless of who you believe is truly “offense” and who is “defense,” it is undeniable that the affirmative is much stronger when their stance is to push their big idea and emphasize why their plan is better than the status quo, as opposed to simply responding to the criticism that the negative provides.
In my opinion, voting issues allow you to take a more aggressive, powerful stance when closing out the round. Instead of simply responding to issues with your case, you spell out exactly why your plan is a huge improvement over the status quo. While stressing each main theme, you can address relevant arguments and explain why you win those as well. When the 2A spends several minutes (or all of their time) defending and not attacking, the judge assumes that their case must be weak if they have to spend so much time responding.
- Voting issues give you a solid structure
Why would you refute to each solvency argument and disadvantage individually if you can group them together under VOTING ISSUE #1: MASSIVE BENEFITS? Or, even better, have a separate voting issue for each massive benefit your plan provides? The point I’m making is that voting issues give a two, three, or four point structure that is easy for the judge to follow and has catchy taglines that the judge will remember while filling out their ballot. Voting issues are not a substitute for refutation, but rather a powerful, organized way to categorize arguments.
The truth is that most negative arguments share some common thread*, whether that’s a piece of evidence, a plan mandate, or a key assumption. Once you’ve identified the commonalities, voters provide a clear, concise way to refute many arguments in quick succession. Spending half your time responding and half your time on voting issues is impractical when many of your defensive arguments are closely related to your offensive arguments. Take advantage of the structure to defend and attack in the same main point.
Tips for powerful voting issues
- Remember the goal
A voting issue, at its core, is a reason to vote for a particular side. “Our plan is solvent” is not a voting issue: it’s a reason for the judge to not vote neg, but not a reason to vote aff. A plan being solvent or meeting any stock issue is the bare minimum for it to even be considered, not a reason for it to be passed. You can probably see where this is going: voting issues should be reasons why the plan is net beneficial. “Millions of lives saved” is a voting issue. “Topicality” is not.
This should go without saying, but I’m saying it anyway: make sure you’re impacting your voters to the round, or to the judge. And this includes impact calculus: explain why your plan creates a better world, regardless of any disadvantages. Your judge should never be left wondering, “so what?” When the round is over, they should know exactly why you think you won, and hopefully they will agree. “Banning pushbacks” probably means nothing to the judge, but “upholding basic human rights” delivers your message loud and clear.
*Unfortunately, some arguments (topicality for example) are entirely unrelated to any other argument. If it can’t be its own separate voting issue, I prefer to take a moment (one minute at the absolute maximum) to address the issue. Usually this is in regards to some sort of dropped argument.