QUICK HINTS FOR JUDGES NEW TO DEBATE
(1) Debate is not a speech event. The winning team is the one that provides the most convincing argument. This is very important as you will sometimes see an extremely good speaker presenting a weak argument. While delivery is a part (usually around 10-20%) of speaker points and allows you to recognize great speakers, the bulk of your effort should be concentrated on following the flow and counterflow of what is said, not how it is said.
(2) The status quo, which means the current system, is assumed to be working as well as possible (unless the affirmative proves otherwise). If the affirmative shows no problems in the status quo, then the negative wins even if they make no defense or mention of the status quo. The burden of proof, then, is on the affirmative to demonstrate a problem.
(3) The affirmative MUST attack the status quo. Not only that, they must present a plan that results in a system that demonstrably works better than the status quo.
(4) It is possible for an affirmative to win with a very poor plan. This happens when the negative spends all of their time attacking the affirmative's plan but makes no defense whatsoever of the status quo. This happens sometimes. In this situation, if the affirmative has shown serious weaknesses of the status quo, without answer, you should give the debate to the affirmative even with a lousy plan.
(5) If both sides pretty much do their jobs, i.e. the affirmative attacks quo, the negative defends, the affirmative asserts a plan, the negative attacks it, the winning team is simply the one who better attacks and defends. The judge mainly needs to record the flow of argumentation.
(6) It is the debaterís job, not the judges, to attack weak evidence and logic. Judges will sometimes note poor logic or evidence in their comments, but if the other side fails to attack the weaknesses in statements, the statements have to stand. This is why you'll often hear experienced debaters in rebuttals remark, "They never attacked our statement that....therefore we have to assume that it stands."
(7) The affirmative does not have to prove that their plan WILL be adopted, only that it SHOULD be adopted. This is referred to as "Fiat" power. For example, if the negative says "The Senate is now Republican. It would never vote to raise taxes," the affirmative response should be "We don't have to prove that the Senate WILL vote for this. By Fiat, we need only prove that it should."
(8) All evidence should have sources and dates. Both sides can attack evidence as well as logic.
(9) Write lots of comments. Students like to hear where they went wrong and your train of thought even if it looks messy.
(10) Some statements are "common knowledge." No one need evidence, for example, that Nixon was president. However, if debaters assert he was the "best president," they would need evidence.
(11) Enjoy the debates! It has been my experience that common sense and knowledge of the rules make for superior judging. Ironically enough, the worst judges over the years have often been highly educated inviduals, including a number of lawyers, who came in simply assuming that they already knew how to judge, not those anxious to learn.