Following Oregon's Trail: Implementing Automatic Voter Registration to Provide for Improved Jury Representation in the United States

By Cascino, Julie A. | William and Mary Law Review, May 2018 | Go to article overview

Following Oregon's Trail: Implementing Automatic Voter Registration to Provide for Improved Jury Representation in the United States


Cascino, Julie A., William and Mary Law Review


TABLE OF CONTENTS  INTRODUCTION                                                 2577 I. THE NEED FOR VOTER REGISTRATION REFORM                    2581   A. Historical Background                                   2582      1. The U.S. Jury Tradition                              2582      2. Voter Discrimination in the United States            2584   B. The Importance of Representative Juries                 2588   C. Judicial Intervention in Jury Selection                 2589 II. CONTEMPORARY ISSUES WITH STATE VOTER     REGISTRATION                                             2591   A. Contemporary State Voter Laws                           2592   B. Legal Challenges to State Voter Laws                    2594 III. OREGON'S AUTOMATIC VOTER REGISTRATION MODEL:      THE MOTOR VOTER ACT                                     2595   A. Oregon as an Electoral Reform Pioneer                   2596   B. The Structure of Oregon's Automatic Voter Registration      Statute                                                 2597   C. Early Statistics and Commentary on the      Oregon Statute                                          2598      1. Early Voter Registration Statistics                  2598      2. Positive Commentary on Oregon's Model                2600 IV. APPLYING AN EXPANDED VERSION OF OREGON'S MODEL IN     OTHER STATES                                             2601   A. The Need for an Expanded Version of the Oregon      Model                                                   2602      1. Conserving Resources                                 2604      2. Preventing Voter Fraud                               2606   B. Using Registered Voters' Names for Jury Pool Lists      2608      1. Increasing Access to the Franchise                   2608      2. Increasing Jury Representation                       2609 V. COMMON CONCERNS WITH THE USE OF AUTOMATIC    VOTER REGISTRATION                                        2610   A. Criticism of the Oregon Model                           2610   B. Automatic Registration Effectiveness                    2611   C. Peremptory Challenges                                   2612   D. Jury Service Avoidance                                  2613   E. Voter Privacy Concerns                                  2614 CONCLUSION                                                   2615 

INTRODUCTION

In 2012, economists Shamena Anwar, Patrick Bayer, and Randi Hjalmarsson cowrote a study that was "the first of its kind--ever," (1) a study examining the effect that all-white jury pools had on Florida trials over a ten-year period. (2) The study found that when Black persons were absent from Florida jury pools, Black defendants were convicted at an 81 percent rate while white defendants were convicted at only a 66 percent rate. (3) In contrast, when the jury pool included at least one potential Black juror, the conviction rates between Black defendants and white defendants were almost identical, at 71 percent for Black defendants and 73 percent for white defendants. (4) The study also found that adding Black potential jurors to the pool altered trial outcomes "even when [those] jurors [were] not ultimately seated on the jury." (5)

The results of this study suggest that the diversity of a potential pool of jurors plays a significant role in providing defendants--and especially defendants of color--with fair trials, perhaps even more so than attorneys' inability to use peremptory strikes to remove jurors of color. (6) Moreover, although there is no promise juries will be perfect microcosms of the local community, the U.S. Constitution guarantees criminal defendants at least "an impartial jury." (7)

Unfortunately, the likelihood that a specific locality's jury source pool includes a diverse array of individuals is low because states often use voter registration data as a major source of names for jury pools, (8) and the U.S. electoral system suffers from widespread voter disenfranchisement. …

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