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Evidence Rule Changes

For this month’s article, I would like to address a number of questions we have received concerning the Team Policy and Lincoln Douglas evidence rule changes. First of all, please be aware that when we make a rule change it is done only after other courses of action or change have been determined ineffective in bringing about the desired result.

The new evidence rules were designed to address broad interpretations of the previous evidence rules. There were increasing incidents of striking through up to 80% of various sentences in order to create an entirely new sentence. In other instances, sentences were moved to appear that they were in context and congruent with sentences from a different paragraph. Under the previous version of the rules this did not violate the “letter of the law,” but it did violate the ethical standards of being a true witness of other’s words.

In order to better uphold the integrity of evidence used in the rounds, we made the changes. As with any change, there have been thoughtful technical questions on how to remain within the rules, especially when it comes to definitions, certain legal documents, and the founding documents such as The US Constitution and Declaration of Independence, as well as how to handle longer pieces of evidence. My hope is that this article will greatly help extirpate obfuscation (i.e. eliminate confusion).

One technical area that should help solve some issues is determining what is “ending punctuation.” When it comes to ending punctuation, most rightly refer to periods, exclamation points, and question marks. However, in certain contexts, a semicolon can be determined an ending punctuation. This is especially seen in dictionary definitions, US founding documents, and some other legal documents. For instance, when one looks at Article 1 Section 8 of the US Constitution, it begins with a capital letter, but there is only one period at the very end. There are, however, many semicolons that separate the ideas. In this instance, the semicolon is seen as ending punctuation for each separate clause. Therefore, if you are using Article 1 Section 8, you may read the opening clause and then say, “Later in this section it goes on to say ‘To provide and maintain a Navy;’”. That would be fine to do. There are many other documents that quote these articles, so if you are more comfortable using them, that works too.

Some legal documents or articles that refer to legal decisions may have the case name as well as reference numbers, e.g. Myers v. U.S., 272 U.S. 52 (1928). There are also articles that seem to be fairly long. Both of these issues can be taken care of the same way. The important part of the evidence is typically one to three sentences. Leave the context of those sentences both before and after the evidence. The student can summarize those sentences, read the salient part of the evidence and explain some more. Judges want to hear more of your explanations anyway. This also enters that evidence into the round, so the opposing team can check the context of what was summarized, see what you read verbatim, and all is good.

Finally, I got a question from an LD coach asking about footnoting references. The rules state that if you are presenting evidence, meaning you are reading something verbatim from the podium that has a proper source citation, is publicly accessible, etc. then you need to have that source immediately before the evidence. Footnotes have caused confusion as to whether what was presented was actually evidence or a summary of the evidence. Hence the reason for the rule. If you are only footnoting a reference to an application that you are NOT reading as evidence as defined by Stoa evidence standards, I see no problem with that, since it not evidence.

We, as the Debate Committee, realize we are not perfect. We will be revisiting the wording of the rules in July, as we do every year. Please continue to ask your questions. We do appreciate it. May the Lord bless your season. Debate well, and continue to Speak Boldly for Christ.


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