Quick: which fundament* of democracy suffers from 22% turnout in a large Washington county?
(a) Voting in gubernatorial elections
(b) Signing initiative petitions
(c) Watching American Idol
The answer is (d), Answering a jury summons (and the county is King).
I noticed the article for the simple reason that I've been summoned for February 6-10, Superior Court of Thurston County. (There is no inferior court, at least not in name.) It'll be my first time playing Henry Fonda, and I'm rather looking forward to it. That is, if I'm not knocked out of the pool by virtue of the two strikes against me: 1. I'm a debate coach and 2. I'm a blogger.
The system in this state (and elsewhere, I'd imagine) needs an overhaul. Unemployed jurors are compensated with a mere $10 per diem. Think about it--you get paid that much to take a five-minute mall survey about your favorite brand of nachos. Pathetic.
(Remarkably, the article makes no mention of the fact that the law requires an employer to provide a paid leave of absence for a summoned employee. )
I can't see a magical way to raise extra money to pay a decent wage, but if the three largest counties would require only an upper estimate of $900,000 to make jury duty more financially respectable than panhandling, we could probably get the whole system fixed for under $3 million annually.
Small price to pay for juries that truly represent the people.
*The way jury duty is treated by citizens and government alike, the term is apt in every sense.