What If Voting Was Mandatory Like Jury Duty?

How Prospective Jurors Are Chosen

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. It also may use lists of registered drivers.

"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.



What is a census?

A census is a compulsory survey the federal government conducts once every five years.

Do I have to fill in a census form?

Yes. You have to fill in a census. If you do not return a completed census form you can be given a notice in writing that says you are required to complete and return the form. If you fail to complete and return the census form you can be prosecuted and fined.


There is relatively recent case law regarding an employee who was unlawfully terminated for serving on jury duty. In Shaffer v. ACS Government Services, Inc., 321 F. Supp. 2d 682, (2004), an employee was called for service on a grand jury. The employee properly notified his employer regarding this call for service. Upon being called for jury selection, the individual was subsequently called for service. Approximately two months later, the employee was terminated.

The employer’s position was that the defendant had agreed to arbitration in the event of any termination by the employee via signing an employee manual, as well as the act of continued employment inferring this agreement. The court found that continued employment does not constitute an agreement; neither does signing a broad topic employee manual that does fully address the issue. The court also found that these actions by the employee did not provide sufficient legal agreement to arbitration, as required by law to suffice an agreement. Subsequent cases have also relied on this as precedent.

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Would it work? More than 30 countries around the world have some form of compulsory voting. The evidence unambiguously suggests higher turnouts are the result. In Australia, the best-known example, turnout jumped by 33 percentage points in national elections after compulsory voting was introduced in 1924. It has remained in the 90 to 95% range ever since. That’s of registered voters, of course: about 10% of the electorate avoids enrolling, with the usual higher rates among young people. That still means more than 80% of the adult population votes. On a comparable basis, turnout here would be closer to 50% federally.

Most non-voters escape punishment: illness, travel and religious objections are amongst the reasons accepted. Very few — just 5% of non-voters — end up paying the A$20 fine. Mostly, it operates as a sort of gentle nudge, a reminder of civic duty that seems to command broad popular consensus: Polls consistently show upwards of 70% support for the system.

In sum, it works. There’s no reason to think it wouldn’t work here. What’s stopping us?

Denied Time Off for Voting or Jury Duty? Learn Your Rights by Speaking to a Lawyer

The right to vote and serve on a jury are cornerstones of living in a democracy. There are laws in place to ensure that employers don’t abridge these fundamental rights. If your employer has denied your ability to participate in an election or serve on a jury, you may need to explore your legal options. Get started today by speaking with a skilled employment attorney near you.

How Does Jury Duty Work?

When you are called for jury duty, you'll receive the official summons calling you to be available for jury duty at a particular time, date, and place. When you arrive at the assigned court, your first task is to fill out a questionnaire and participate in the jury selection process.

In some municipalities, the potential juror can call the court the night before they have been asked to report for jury duty to find out whether their services will be needed the next day.

State laws address jury duty and these laws differ between states. Check with your state’s labor department to find the laws that govern jury duty in your particular state. The U.S. Department of Labor offers a listing of state labor offices where you can find this information.

If a person has been called for jury duty, a number of outcomes may ensue. They may request and be granted a delay or postponement to a more convenient time during the year. Typically, this requires a phone call and possibly filling out a jury questionnaire, and the potential juror should be prepared to provide an alternate time in the future when they will be able to serve.

The rules for requesting a postponement will vary from one jurisdiction to the next. Also, be aware that just because a person requests a postponement or delay does not mean the court will grant it.

It's also possible to request an exemption to be excused from jury duty altogether. Accepted reasons for a possible exemption vary by state but may include financial hardship, medical reasons, full-time student status, or caregiver duties. Exemptions aren't guaranteed, and usually, they must be accompanied by a written note or proof of the situation, such as a note from a doctor if someone is claiming a medical reason.


1. Voting

    1. In Indiana, the polls in each precinct open at 6:00 a.m. and close at 6:00 p.m. local time on Election Day.
    2. Units are encouraged to allow staff employees to utilize flexible work schedules to vote.
    3. Employees whose work schedules prevent them from voting between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. may be allowed time off with pay to vote, up to a maximum of two hours.
      1. This time off does not have to be made up and will not be charged to the employee’s accrued or compensatory time.

Example: A work schedule of 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. allows two hours to vote in the morning (6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.). Thus, an employee would not receive any time off with pay to vote. A work schedule of 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. allows 1.5 hours to vote before or after work. An employee who works this type of schedule may receive one-half hour of time off with pay to vote if needed.

 2. Jury Duty

    1. A staff employee called for jury duty can be absent with pay for the service period as a juror. Employees are expected to utilize any courthouse call-in or online service for jurors to be notified, in advance, of whether their presence is needed for jury selection.
      1. Day-shift employees will be released from work for the day of service; night-shift employees will be released from work on the scheduled shift before or after the day of service.
      2. Non-exempt staff employees must report the number of hours they are absent and indicate on the payroll voucher that the absence was for jury duty.
      3. Exempt staff employees enter court duty (CTD) in ePTO in half or full-day increments, not hourly.
    2. Employees must notify their supervisor as soon as possible of potential or actual jury duty and may be asked to provide relevant daily attendance documentation upon completion.
    3. Employees may retain any jury fees and reimbursements.

3. Witness Testimony

    1. A staff employee subpoenaed as a witness for a court proceeding (including a deposition) can be absent with pay when serving as a witness. Subpoenaed employees should contact the attorney named on the subpoena to determine the actual time for their appearance to testify.
      1. Day-shift employees will be released from work for the day they are needed to testify pursuant to the subpoena; night-shift employees will be released from work on the scheduled shift before or after the day they are required to testify.
      2. Non-exempt staff employees must report the number of hours they are absent and indicate on the payroll voucher that the absence was pursuant to a witness subpoena.
      3. Exempt staff employees enter court duty (CTD) in ePTO in half or full-day increments, not hourly.
      4. Travel time may be included in the absence with pay, depending on the circumstances.
    2. Employees must notify their supervisor as soon as possible upon receipt of a subpoena for testimony and may be asked to provide relevant documentation.
    3. In cases where the university is a party to a lawsuit, University Counsel does not typically issue subpoenas to employees who are needed to testify but instead asks that they agree to appear. If the university asks the employee to appear, or if the opposing party issues the employee a subpoena, the employee can be absent with pay. The employee should provide the supervisor a statement from University Counsel showing the request to appear and testify.
    4. Employees may retain any witness fees and reimbursements.
    5. In cases in which the university is not a party, staff employees who are a named party to a case, who are serving as an expert witness, or who have agreed to be a witness in the absence of a subpoena, the employee must use other forms of time off or be absent without pay.

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Paid Jury Duty Leave

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), of employees who work in state government, 94% receive paid jury duty leave. Of employees who work in local government employment, 85% receive paid jury duty leave. Federal employees receive their regular salary while they perform jury duty.

In the private sector, 57% of employees receive paid jury duty leave.

The percentage of workers who receive paid jury duty leave varies widely and is based on the job title, job level or classification, type of work, industry, and location.

The majority of states leave an employer's jury duty policy up to the employer. However, eight states require employers to pay their employees while serving jury duty:

  • Alabama
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Louisiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Nebraska
  • New York
  • Tennessee

Some states specify what the employer must pay an employee, which is usually the same as the jury duty pay for a certain amount of days at the beginning of the process. After that, for additional days of jury duty, the state court system pays the employee the going rate for jury duty. Other states specify that the employee must be paid their regular pay while reporting for jury duty.

As an example, in New York, the jury fee is $40 a day. New York law states that if a company has more than 10 employees, they must pay the juror their regular daily wage or the $40 juror fee, whichever is lower, for the first three days of jury service. If the juror is paid less than the juror fee, the state will make up the difference.

The Bottom Line Jury duty is when a U.S citizen is summoned to serve on a jury in a court proceeding.An employer is not required by federal law to pay you for time not worked, including jury duty, but some state laws do require that employees be paid when serving jury duty.You cannot be fired for taking time off work for jury duty.