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None Of The Above: Jury Duty (Debunked!)


By Gennifer Harding-Gosnell 

Jury duty is so universally despised, it’s a cultural norm to joke with friends and colleagues about how to get out of it and readily express our desire to not be selected. 

Some Clevelanders are so averse to jury duty they told The Cleveland Observer in a survey that they won’t register to vote because of it. 

The belief that registering to vote can lead to a jury duty summons is false, explains CWRU Political Science and Law Professor Jonathan Entin: “[Ohio Revised Code] Section 2313.06 says that a jury list is supposed to be compiled each year. And this is to be compiled both from registered voters and from people who have been issued driver’s licenses or other state IDs through the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. So to the extent that people think that not registering to vote will somehow keep them from being called for jury duty, that’s just not correct.”  “It’s an urban legend now,” says Entin, “it may have some basis in fact, but that’s in the past.”

The code reads, “The registrar of motor vehicles shall compile and file with the commissioners of jurors of each county a certified, current list containing the names, addresses, dates of birth, and citizenship of all residents of the particular county who have been issued…a driver’s license or identification card…and who, regardless of whether they actually are registered to vote, would be electors if they were registered to vote.”

So avoiding jury duty is no longer a true reason to not register to vote.

Low numbers of registered voters among Black and lower-income communities led to concerns that juries did not reflect the racial make-up of the local population, and defendants were not being judged by their actual “peers.” In addition to already not being represented politically, low voter participation in these communities also meant people of color were more likely to be judged by majority-white juries.    

What’s so bad about jury duty anyway?

Survey respondents had different answers. “[I’m hourly] I won’t get paid if I have to leave work to attend jury duty,” says Kim S. “Some people don’t want to be involved in the jury system because they don’t want to potentially have to hear and see murder cases and the like. Third, so many things about the system are corrupt.”

“There are some unknowns about being on a jury,” says Autumn, 44, of Cleveland. “Length of trial is a big one for many. Missing a day of work might be ok for some but having to miss a week or more could be financially devastating, let alone should you end up on a jury that gets sequestered.” 

Nope, this one is not true,” says Laura Mattice of the Clerk of Courts’ offices. “In addition to voter registration records, names are also added to the jury duty list based on having a driver’s license, paying taxes, or owning a home. So definitely do not use avoiding jury duty as an excuse not to register to vote.”

This piece is part of a series of stories titled “None Of The Above” created as part of the Democracy SOS Fellowship program. Other stories in the series can be viewed in print or online at theclevelandobserver.com.  

For further reading:
“A New Take On How Jury Service Is Akin to Voting”, Paula Hannaford-Agor, 2017. 
“Should Your Driver’s License Require You To Report For Jury Duty?” Nick Swartsell, 2017. 
“Ohio Bill Would Add People with State Driver’s License To Jury Pool,” Maggie Leigh Thurber, 2019.