Tuesday, October 23, 2018

SOLTuesday: Voting vs. Jury Duty

            This morning, I had to call a company’s customer service line. (The problem easily fixed.) The woman who answered said her name and where she was (Arkansas), so when our business was done, I asked if she was registered to vote.
            No, she said, and it turned out that she wasn’t registered because she didn’t want to be called for jury duty. I’ve heard this “excuse” before, and frankly, don’t understand it. If you are afraid of losing your job or pay, that will usually get you excused.  
         I did try to engage her on the issue, saying that if you don’t want to be on a jury, you can always say something that will get the lawyers to dismiss you—you just have to be willing to say that you don’t think you could be fair on this case. On a civil court jury pool involving a landlord/tenant dispute, I said I didn’t believe in private property so wouldn’t be able to judge a landlord fairly. (I had airline tickets for vacation at the end of the week, but at that time, that wasn’t enough to get me out of the jury pool.)
            The woman said she didn’t want the responsibility of deciding another person’s fate in a trial, and she also insisted, “It’s my choice.” And I apologized for taking up her time and let her go back to answering customers’ complaints.
            Then I posted this episode on Facebook. My daughter and several friends informed me that juries are now drawn not only from registered voters but also tax returns and driver’s licenses. If this is the case in Arkansas, this woman may find herself unpleasantly surprised one day. Maybe then she will register to vote.
            Meanwhile, this fear of jury duty seems to me a way people suppress their own vote. I hope you are all registered and able to vote in two weeks—whichever side you are on.
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