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Nationals 2019 – Judging FAQ

Welcome to the 2019 National Tournament! Thank you for serving students through judging. Below we answer several frequently asked questions you may have about the tournament.

What is the Tournament Office?

The tournament office is the headquarters for all tournament activities. It is where the Ombudspeople, the Equity Officers, the Rules Adjudication Panelists, and other tournament administrators may be found. In the Sheraton, the tournament office is in the Press Club room. In the Crowne Plaza, it is in the Kessler room. For more information about these people/panels, please see page 65 in your Tournament Book.

Where are the schematics?

Round pairings/schematics can be found via the Nats19 Guidebook App or on They can also be found in the Lone Star Preconvene (Sunday) and Grand Hall (Monday-Thursday).
For further details see page 27 of your Tournament Book.

How do I know if I’m judging?

At registration, each judge is provided a printed judging itinerary that details their judging obligation for the entire tournament. It may be wise to copy down or take a photo of this paper in case it is misplaced!

Where do I pick up and return my ballot?

All speech ballots are delivered to competition rooms. Monday through Wednesday, the speech ballot return is outside Austin 1, which is located on the 2nd floor of the Sheraton Dallas Hotel. Beginning Wednesday, Supplemental and Consolation event ballot return will be outside Austin 2.

Policy Debate, Lincoln-Douglas Debate, Public Forum Debate, World Schools Debate, and Big Questions Debate are adjudicated via online balloting.

I think I’m going to be late to my assigned round, what should I do?

Move as quickly as possible!
If you do not show up on time for your round, you will be replaced with another judge, and that round will start. Your school’s judge bond will be forfeited. If you are only a few minutes late, report to the room to see if the round has started.

If you know you cannot be on time to your round well in advance, call the NSDA Help Line at (920) 748-6206 so a new judge can be placed in your spot. This will result in a forfeit of your school’s judge bond because all judges are obligated to be available during their assigned times.

What should I do if I cannot access and/or submit my ballot?

First, if another judge in the room does have internet access, see if you can submit your decision using their device. If that doesn’t work, try to access and/or submit your ballot using a personal mobile hotspot (if available). Remember that you only need to submit the decision. Feedback can be written later when you have wifi access. Finally, If no one has Wi-Fi access to submit their ballot, write down your decision on a piece of paper and bring it to the judge pooling room.

Are competitors allowed to use internet during the round?

Competitors are not allowed to use the internet during the round. If there are any questions or claims relating to internet use, please contact the NSDA Help Line at (920) 748-6206.

What do I do as a judge if a speech competitor claims an NSDA rule has been broken during the round?

Inform the student that their coach may file a protest after the round by reporting to the Tournament Office.

What do I do as a judge if a debate competitor claims an NSDA rule has been broken during the round?

If the competitor is alleging that a team is misrepresenting evidence (e.g., saying it is indicative of a widespread trend even though the cited study is small) or not using full oral citations, etc., you as the judge have the power to determine how much, if at all, those arguments affect your final decision as to who wins or loses the round.

If the competitor is alleging that a team made up evidence, distorted evidence (e.g., adding or deleting words, cutting it in a way that alters the author’s conclusion, not bracketing added words), or was clipping evidence (i.e., when the debater claims to have read the complete text of highlighted and/or underlined evidence when, in fact, the contestant skips portions of evidence), these are serious enough allegations that a competitor can say they would like to stop the round and start a formal protest process. If they do so, you will analyze the evidence to see if it was in fact made up, distorted, etc. and make a decision. If the protesting team was correct that the evidence was distorted or made up, the round is over, and you will vote for the protesting team. If the protesting team cannot prove that the evidence was made up falsified and/or distorted, the other team wins the round.

More information about the NSDA’s evidence rules can be found on pages 28-32 of the Unified Manual.

Can I talk to the other judges about the round?

Never confer with the other judges or competitors about your decision before your ballot has been submitted. There should be no need to discuss the round with the other judges in the room between the time the round/debate starts and the time you submit your ballot. Once your ballot is submitted, should you chose to do so, you’re welcome to celebrate the great performances and debates you observed!

Am I supposed to disclose my decision to the debaters?

In preliminary rounds, judges should not disclose their decisions. In elimination rounds, when you’re on a panel of judges, will show the decision on the screen of the last judge to submit their ballot. That person can announce the decision to the debaters.

Can/should I give feedback to the speech competitors in round?
What is the prep time for the debate event I’m judging?
  • Policy: 5 minutes per team.
  • Public Forum: 2 minutes per team.
  • Lincoln-Douglas: 4 minutes per debater.
  • Big Questions Debate: 3 minutes per debater.
Is there a grace period at the National Tournament?

Yes. All time limits in speech events have a 30-second “grace period.” If there are multiple judges in a round, all must agree that the student has gone beyond the grace period. Should a student go beyond the grace period, that student may not be ranked 1st. There is no other prescribed penalty for going over the grace period. No minimum time is mandated.

What should I do if a student or team does not show up or is late to the round?

Remember that there is no double entry in the tournament, so competitors are responsible for showing up to the round on time. To respect the challenges of the hotel model, contestants may be allowed a few extra minutes to show up to their room. However, a round starting late can hold up the tournament and make the days too long for our students.

  • If a debate team is more than 15 minutes late, please call the NSDA Help Line at (920) 748-6206 immediately.
  • If a speech competitor is late/absent, have the next student perform and make a note of the altered order on your ballot.
What should I do if something happens in round and the round is stopped?

If there’s a medical emergency, first call 911, then call the NSDA Help Line at (920) 748-6206 so an on-site EMT can be sent to the room to provide aid until the ambulance arrives.

If there’s a tournament-wide hold up (bad weather, fire, etc.), follow emergency procedures communicated to you by hotel staff and tournament officials. Officials will let you know what to do about the round stoppage after the situation is resolved.

If there is a non-emergency localized situation, such as the lights went out, student needs a bandaid, printing error on ballot, etc., call the NSDA Help Line at (920) 748-6206 for assistance.

It is always paramount that safety is considered first. Competition related issues will be handled as soon as it is appropriate.

What should I do if a student went to the wrong room and we didn’t realize it until the round was over?

If a student/team competes in the wrong contest section or against the wrong opponent, at no fault of their opponent or the tournament officials, that student/team will automatically receive last or will receive a loss for that particular round.

  • If it’s a speech round, rank the student last in the round and immediately escort the student in question to the Tournament Office in the Press Club room. Bring your ballot with you so the tournament officials can check that the penalty has been applied correctly.
  • If it’s a debate round, give the team a loss, submit your ballot, and escort the students from both teams to the Tournament Office in the Press Club room (Sheraton) or the Kessler room (Crowne Plaza) immediately. If you still need to judge another flight, stay and judge. Report to the Tournament Office after the second flight is over.
What should I do if I feel I have a conflict with a student competing in the round I’m judging?

Don’t judge the round!

If you judge a round knowing of a conflict, you’ll lose your judge bond. Instead, call the NDSA Help Line at (920) 748-6206 to let them know about the issue, then report to the judge pooling room so they can make a judge substitution.

What should I do if there is a round still going on in the room where I am supposed to judge?

Due to the large number of competitors at the tournament, a round may have started a little late or run over time. First check that you are in the correct room at the correct start time by looking at the schematic at If you are, give the round a few minutes to finish up.
Call the NSDA Help Line at (920) 748-6206 if the round is more than 10 minutes late.

What should I do if I’m judging an event I’ve never judged before? How can I learn more about each event?

You will know what events you are judging on Sunday when you receive your judging itinerary.
For more information about judging, visit Additionally, your ballot will have reminders for judges concerning speech time limits, prep time, and more.

I lost my judging itinerary - what should I do?

All schematics are will be available via When you log into, your judging schedule will appear when you click on your email address in the top right corner of your screen.

What happens if I miss a round?

Your school will automatically lose your $200 judge bond the first time you miss a round. Any round missed after that will result in an additional $100 fine. Rest assured that the judge was replaced in the round, but make sure not to miss another! Check with the judge pooling room if you have questions about your judge bond.

If I’m not judging, am I permitted to watch rounds?

You are not forbidden from watching rounds. However, if you are an individual events (IEs) judge, you may want to refrain from watching any IE rounds so you do not see any students you could end up judging. If you decide to watch a round, be sure not to be late for any judging assignments you have.

I have a question or concern relating to NSDA rules - who should I ask?

All rules for the National Tournament can be found in the Unified Manual, which is downloadable at Please keep in mind that your local/state rules may be different than those used for this tournament. If you still have questions or concerns after consulting the Unified Manual, you should visit the Tournament Office or call the NSDA Help Line at (920) 748-6206.

Still Have Questions?

If you cannot find the answer to your question in the Tournament Book, you can stop by the Tournament Office (located in the Press Club room at the Sheraton or the Kessler room at the Crowne). You may also call/text the NSDA Help Line at (920) 748-6206.