SIOUX CITY -- Iowa court administrators hope that a new way of notifying potential jurors will increase the number of Iowans who report for jury duty.
On Monday, the state announced that residents picked for jury duty will no longer receive paper juror questionnaires in the mail with a summons. Instead, they will receive a post card with information on how to complete the questionnaire online.
The state anticipates the change will lead to a better response rate from potential jurors because they will be able to complete the questionnaire electronically at any time, said Todd Nuccio, state court administrator.
"This will simplify the process and make it more convenient for citizens summoned for jury service," Nuccio said.
Iowans previously had the option to complete the questionnaire online or they could fill it out and mail it back to the clerk of court's office in their county. Woodbury County Clerk of District Court Amy Berntson said anyone who receives a post card notification but does not have a computer may call to request a written summons, or they can provide their information over the phone to the clerk's office.
Berntson said she thinks the new website is more user-friendly than the previous one.
"I think this site is easier to go in and answer questions," she said.
The new system will allow prospective jurors to enter a cell phone number or email address so they can be notified by text message or email three days before their jury service date. A second reminder will be sent 24 hours before their service date. Those frequent reminders, a new feature to the system, will hopefully cut down on the number of people who fail to show up for jury duty, Berntson said.
"I think there are a lot of positives that will help change it in the right direction," she said.
Prospective jurors in Woodbury County still can call the night before to find out if they need to report for jury duty the following morning, but Berntson said they also can go online to set up a text or email alert fort that information.
Berntson said the new system will save workers in her office the time of preparing questionnaires for mailing. The time saved will allow them to complete other tasks, though she anticipates a number of phone calls from prospective jurors, at least initially.
Woodbury County, which notifies about 400 potential jurors every two weeks, will see its first batch of post cards go out next week, Berntson said.
Post cards sent to prospective jurors will contain information specific to each county, including the website address for the online questionnaire, the courthouse address and map, a juror number, service start date, term of service and the juror badge.
The new process resulted from recommendations by the Iowa Supreme Court Committee on Jury Selection, which in March asked that state court administrators develop a new process for notifying citizens of jury duty and create an online questionnaire.
The Iowa Judicial Branch has added a new jury service page, with a link to the online juror questionnaire at https://www.iowacourts.gov/iowa-courts/jury-service/