The Harker School Howard and Diana Nichols Invitational

2015 — CA/US

Varsity Congressional Debate Schedule

Varsity Congressional Debate Tournament

Friday, September 25 - Registration by email or phone between 3PM and 7PM PST. All payments must be brought in on Saturday morning before the conclusion of first session or entries will be pulled from the tournament.

Saturday, September 26



Sunday, September 27






LOCATION:  All rounds will be held at the Harker Upper School, 500 Saratoga Avenue, San Jose, CA 95129. 


DIVISIONS: Congressional Debate will offer one division of competition. 


INDEPENDENT ENTRIES: In accordance with the TOC's policy not to accept bids earned by independents or to allow independents to compete at the TOC, we will NOT accept "independent" entries. We define an independent entry as a team or student who wishes to compete without the approval, knowledge, or consent of their school administration and/or coach(es). All students must compete under the degree-granting high school's name in which they are officially enrolled. STUDENTS MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY AN OFFICIAL SCHOOL CHAPERONE (ONE DECLARED LEGALLY RESPONSIBLE BY THE SCHOOL BEING REPRESENTED) DURING THE ENTIRETY OF THE TOURNAMENT. 


FORMAT:  Please see Congressional Debate procedures listed at the bottom of this invitation.


JUDGING:  We ask that you provide excellent critics to adjudicate rounds. One Congress judge covers 6 entries. Please note that to keep chamber judging conflicts to a minimum, judges may be asked to judge in PF to cover your Congress commitment. We will have a limited number of judges available for hire at $150 for a full time judge. ALL JUDGES ARE OBLIGATED FOR ONE **FULL** ELIMINATION ROUND BEYOND THEIR TEAM'S ELIMINATION. FAILURE TO FULFILL THIS OBLIGATION MAY PREVENT FUTURE PARTICIPATION AT THE NICHOLS INVITATIONAL.



1. Recency & Priority: Modern high school Congressional Debate has long since institutionalized the practice of recency (as opposed to standing time) as a secondary principle of priority. The National Forensics League has now officially written into its rules this standard for its District and National tournaments. Priority for speaker recognition will be governed by the following principles: 

                     Primary Principle: Number of speeches delivered 

                     Secondary Principle: Recency (who spoke longest ago) 

                     Tertiary Principle: Randomness (applicable only if those seeking recognition have not 
yet spoken). 
Please note that presiding officers must randomly select a first speaker if there are multiple speakers. Presiding officers may not ask mathematics or trivia questions in order to break a tie. 

2. Debate at the Will of the Chamber: This tournament will allow for “open podiums” (skipping a speech slot when no one wishes to speak, thus creating two or more affirmative or negative speeches in a row) to maximize our use of time. If the chamber hears three speeches on the same side without an opposing speech (i.e. Aff, neg, neg, neg), the chamber will be forced to move to previous question in the event that there are no opposing speeches. Debaters are also reminded that “dividing the house” as a survey of who wishes to speak on the affirmative and negative is a misuse of the motion, and that there are no minimum “cycles” of debate (all motions are welcome between all speeches). In the unlikely absence of a first affirmative speech, debate may also begin on a new piece of legislation with a negative speech. 

3. Voting by Unanimous Consent: When a motion is unlikely to be contested, it is appropriate for the Chair to call for unanimous consent by asking, “are there any objections” before executing the motion. Members may then respond by announcing “objection” to the chamber. This is not an automatic recognition to explain the substance of that objection. Proper expression of your objection is to then vote “Nay” in the subsequent division of the chamber.

4. Personal Privileges: It has become common practice in recent years to suspend the rules and allow for an “open” chamber where members may freely enter and exit between speeches. While this does relieve the Chair of traffic directing duties, it has led to some degree of abuse by members. Therefore, suspension of the rules for the purposes of an open chamber is not permitted. Members are reminded that the proper exchange to ask for permission to leave or enter the chamber and return occurs as follows:

   Member: “Mr./Mme. President/Speaker, I rise to a point of personal privilege.” 

   Chair: “State privilege.” 

   Member: “Enter/Exit chambers.” 

   Chair: “Granted.” or “Denied (with brief explanation).” 

5. Decorum: This tournament strives to be a contest with the highest standards of behavior at all times among attending students. Debate modeling the work of the United States Congress should be enjoyable but also taken seriously. Particularly note that each chamber will be designated as either a Senate or a House of Representatives. A member of a Senate is always referred to as Senator, while a member of a House of Representatives is always referred to as Representative. The Presiding Officer of a Senate is addressed as Mister/Madam President, while the Presiding Officer of a House of Representatives is addressed as Mister/Madam Speaker. The Presiding Officer is responsible for enforcing proper decorum. 

6. Agenda Order: Each preliminary chamber sets its own agenda order. The proposed agenda order must receive approval by a simple majority vote of the chamber before the beginning of each session. If more than two agendas are proposed, and no agenda gains a majority, runoff elections will be conducted to narrow the agendas to the final two. 

7. Amendments: Legislators may submit amendments to the Presiding Officer in writing. A motion to amend is necessary to consider the written amendment; such a motion is in order anytime after the first affirmative speech. Once the motion is made, the Presiding Officer decides if the amendment is germane. The Presiding Officer must consult with the Parliamentarian to make this decision. If the amendment is deemed not to be germane, the chair rules it out-of-order and the amendment process stops. If the chair rules the amendment germane, he/she should read the contents of the amendment to the chamber. A 1/3 second of the members present in the chamber is required to debate the amendment. If the chamber votes a second, debate on the amendment commences immediately. Legislators may make a motion to table or call the previous question on the amendment at any time. The first speech on the amendment is a sponsorship speech. The chair determines speaker recognition for the sponsorship speech on the basis of priority; the author of the amendment is not guaranteed the sponsorship speech. The sponsor accepts responsibility for the mechanics of the amendment and yields to two minutes of questioning. All amendment speeches receive a score and count towards priority. A majority vote is necessary for the chamber to adopt the amendment (this of course after a 2/3 vote has been achieved to call previous question on the amendment).

8.  Overtime Speeches: Any regular floor speech that extends more than ten (10) seconds beyond the maximum speaking time of three minutes shall be penalized one full point on the speech score by the judge evaluating the session. The Presiding Officer is required to keep accurate time of each speech and report it to the judges when the speaker has finished. The judges shall heavily penalize a Presiding Officer for inaccurate timing and/or reporting.

9. Electronic Device Use: The use of laptops in chambers is permitted, though it is strongly recommended that students avoid reading notes from laptops when delivering speeches in front of the chamber. Students shall be allowed to use tablet devices when delivering speeches and under no circumstances shall students be penalized for electronic device usage in accordance with these rules. Please be advised that limited power supplies will exist in the classrooms at Harker the tournament accepts no responsibility for providing Congressional debaters with a power source at any tournament site. Internet usage is strictly prohibited, and violators will be disqualified immediately without any secondary considerations.

10. Selection of Presiding Officers: A single presiding officer will serve for each session. A legislator is allowed to serve as Presiding Officer for more than one session, though he or she must be re-elected for each session served. Members of each chamber are encouraged to hold an informal, brief “business meeting” in their chamber before the beginning of Session 1 to discuss the agenda order and to elect a Presiding Officer for the session. For other preliminary sessions, the Presiding Officer will be elected at the conclusion of the preceding session (thus, at the conclusion of Session 1 the Presiding Officer for Session 2 will be elected, and so forth). A presiding officer must serve for the entire three-hour session and may not deliver a speech during the session. There is no such thing as “presiding officer privilege” for speech recognition in future sessions, and for priority purposes the presiding officer should be recorded as having given the first and second speech of the session in which he or she presided.

11.  Time Signals: Presiding officers are strongly encouraged, though not required, to use the “gavel tap” method of providing speakers with time signals during their speeches. This standard is the overwhelming preference of presiding officers at other major national invitational tournaments, NCFL Nationals, and NFL Nationals.

12.  Questioning: A mandatory two-minute questioning period follows all first affirmative and first negative speeches. A mandatory one-minute questioning period follows all other speeches. Suspensions of the rules to abolish questioning periods are not permitted. Repeated use of the motion to suspend the rules for the purpose of extending the cross-examination periods is prohibited. This tournament’s rules include usage of direct questioning for both preliminary and final rounds. Direct questioning requires that the chair yields time to other members of the chamber in blocks of 30 seconds. The chair shall choose four questioners for both the first affirmative and first negative speakers for a sum of two minutes of questioning. The chair shall choose two questioners for speeches after that for a sum of one minute of questioning. Due to the nature of direct questioning, the presiding officer must keep priority and recency of questions in the same matter that priority and recency are kept for speeches. The chair shall not be allowed to choose either speakers or questioners based on their number of questions or speeches.

13.  Clarification of Voting Standards: “[Fractional] motions such as previous question, seconding an amendment, or suspending the rules reflect the will of the entire body. Presiding Officers should calculate these numbers upon first taking the Chair. For these votes, ‘No’ votes are not even required because the number needed is either reached or it’s not. However, in all votes requiring a majority, the Presiding Officer needs to take ‘Yes’ votes, ‘No’ votes, and ‘Abstentions.’ Abstentions do not count as a ‘No.’ In order for such a motion to pass (including the main bill or resolution), the ‘Yes’ votes must simply outnumber the ‘No’ votes. Abstentions are not counted, except as a courtesy to those members who wish to register their desire to avoid voting or those who are undecided on the issue. For example, all majority votes could be decided by 3 people (2-1) with everyone else abstaining.

Therefore, the Presiding Officer determines the method of voting on each question that comes before the chamber. All simple majority votes are based upon the number of legislators present and voting in the chamber; consequently, the Presiding Officer does not need to call for or count abstentions. For all votes requiring a fraction of the chamber to agree to a motion or question (2/3, 1/3, or 1/5), the chair determines whether the chamber agrees with the motion/question using the number of legislators present in the chamber at the time of the vote. Because of this system, the Presiding Officer must track the number of legislators in the chamber at all times. By custom, the Presiding Officer is not included in the count of legislators present and does not vote. Notes on voting:

   Final votes on legislation, amendments, and motions to appeal the chair require a counted vote. 

   Voice voting is acceptable for all other votes, but a counted vote must be taken if any one legislator calls for a division of the chamber. 

The Congress Tournament Directors reserve the right to issue additional special rules for the Harker Nichols Debate Invitational as warranted. Points of parliamentary procedure not specifically enumerated in this document are otherwise governed by the latest version of Robert’s Rules of Order