Low response rates of jurors appearing for jury service in Champaign County has prompted the Office of the Circuit Clerk to implement a new jury system.
“We identified the primary challenge as that of motivating potential jurors to complete the initial jury questionnaire,” Champaign County Circuit Clerk Katie Blakeman said in a press release.
The questionnaires are used to identify qualified jurors, who may be summoned for jury service. Blakeman said Thursday that starting next week, potential jurors will be mailed a postcard that directs them to complete the questionnaire by either filling out the questionnaire online at
www.champaignjury.com, calling an automated phone system, scanning an individualized QR code on the postcard with a smartphone or completing the questionnaire via text message.
The county says it mails 13,000 paper questionnaires annually to county residents. According to the press release, the county spends around $1 per questionnaire by mailing them.
“The postcard mailing will save the County approximately $5,000 annually in printing and mailing costs alone,” Blakeman said in the press release. The software upgrade for the new system was purchased through Judicial Systems Inc. for $43,612.40 and was paid for with funds from the Circuit Clerk Court Automation Fund.
Blakeman said that of the questionnaires sent out since January, 70 percent have not been returned or have been unusable. She added that the county is hoping for at least a 40 percent response rate with the new questionnaires.
“University students were actually one of the groups we had in mind when making the system. The community is very tech-savy,” Blakeman said.
For people without a phone or Internet service, Blakeman said that public libraries offer free computer services, and a paper questionnaire can still be requested.
Jurors who are summoned for jury service can soon choose to be reminded of appearance dates and times by text message or email. Champaign County says it will be the first circuit court in the nation to offer the option of completing a juror questionnaire using a QR code or text message.
“We really want to change that mindset — ‘How can I get out of jury duty?’,” Blakeman said.