Can You Get Out of Jury Duty by Not Registering to Vote?

How Jurors Are Chosen

Voter Registration Card
This is a sample voter registration card issued by a local government. Will County, Illinois

If you're trying to get out of jury duty at the federal or state level, your best chance of doing so is by never registering to vote or canceling your current voter registration. As important as the right to vote is, many Americans opt out of voting to avoid being called for jury duty.

Related Story: 5 Things That Are More Patriotic Than Voting

However, keeping your name off the voter rolls does not guarantee your name won't be called for jury duty.

That's because some federal court districts also pull prospective jurors from lists of licensed drivers to supplement their stable of potential juror from voter lists. So that means you could be called for federal jury duty in some federal court districts if you've got a driver's license.

Nonetheless, voter rolls remain the primary source of prospective jurors. And as long as they remain so, your best chance of avoiding jury duty at the state or federal is to stay off the list of voters in your county and federal court district.

How Prospective Jurors Are Chosen in Federal Court

Potential jurors are chosen for federal court from "a jury pool generated by random selection of citizens' names from lists of registered voters," the federal court system explains.

"Each judicial district must have a formal written plan for the selection of jurors, which provides for random selection from a fair cross-section of the community in the district, and which prohibits discrimination in the selection process.

Voter records - either voter registration lists or lists of actual voters - are the required source of names for federal court juries," according to the federal court system

So if you're not registered to vote, you're safe from jury duty, right? Wrong.

Why You Might Be Picked For Jury Duty Even If You're Not Registered to Vote

Canceling your voter registration card of never registering to vote at all doesn't mean you're exempt from jury duty, and here's why: Some courts supplement voter lists with other sources including lists of licensed drivers.

 

According to the Federal Judicial Center: "Congress requires that each district court develop a plan for selecting jurors. Generally, the selection process begins when the clerk of court randomly draws names from the list of registered voters in the judicial district, and sometimes from other sources, such as the list of licensed drivers."

Is That Really Fair?

There are lots of people who believe drawing prospective jurors from voter-registration lists is wrong because is discourages people from entering the political process. Some academics argue that the connection between voter registration and jury duty represents an unconstitutional poll tax.

As of 2012, 42 states used voter registration as the principle means of choosing prospective voters, according to a research paper by Alexander Preller of Columbia University.

"Jury duty is a burden, but not one which a concerned citizenry should gladly bear. However, jury services should not be allowed to parasitically burden other civil rights," Preller wrote. "The economic burdens of jury duty do not pose constitutional problems so long as they remain separate from voting; the problem is the link itself."

Such an argument claims the current mechanism for choosing jurors forces many Americans to abandon their most precious civil right to carry out a civic obligation.

  

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Murse, Tom. "Can You Get Out of Jury Duty by Not Registering to Vote?" ThoughtCo, Aug. 23, 2016, thoughtco.com/can-nonregistered-voters-skip-jury-duty-3367687. Murse, Tom. (2016, August 23). Can You Get Out of Jury Duty by Not Registering to Vote? Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/can-nonregistered-voters-skip-jury-duty-3367687 Murse, Tom. "Can You Get Out of Jury Duty by Not Registering to Vote?" ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/can-nonregistered-voters-skip-jury-duty-3367687 (accessed December 17, 2017).