The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled it is necessary for a jury to be comprised of a “fair cross section of the community” in order to satisfy the trial right guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment of impartiality. The Federal Jury Selection and Service Act of 1968 was written for this same purpose. Thus, a jury pool of persons eligible to serve reflects the spectrum of society.
In order to comply with the U.S. Supreme Court rulings and the above federal statute, all the states have had to change their laws to insure that a broad cross section will make up the jury pool. Typically names appearing on voter registration lists for each locality are drawn. Many people who are otherwise eligible are not included because they have moved to another locality or state. In order to help solve this problem, names for juror pools are drawn from the list of licensed drivers for that state. Over half the states have made this change, and some have gone even further and have drawn names from lists of customers for utilities and even welfare recipients. This initial list is referred to as a source list.
From the source list, a locality randomly draws a second list referred to as “master wheel” or “qualified wheel” depending upon the statute for that state. These lists are replenished at intervals as required by the law for that state. Questionnaires are sent to those on the “wheel” lists in order to determine whether a particular individual is qualified to serve on a jury. Because between one-quarter to one-half of these forms are not returned, some jurisdictions will send a notice requiring such persons to explain why they have not responded.