Carol Brodie-Mackin says she's gotten a lot of jury notices in her lifetime — including two this past spring, just a few weeks apart.
"Bad enough getting one, to get two I thought I was really lucky," she said.
Brodie-Mackin, 63, of South Philadelphia, said she's been tapped for jury duty in Philadelphia nearly a dozen times. Her inquiry of why it seems as if some people get summoned so often was submitted through Curious Philly, a platform where readers can ask our journalists questions.
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"If she were called more than once in a year, that could happen with her because of the multiple files," Rendine said. "Women are particularly susceptible to this problem because they change their name more than men do."
But the issue isn't isolated to women. It's anyone who may have differences between their license and voter registration — like men with "Jr." or "Sr." in their names, or people who just moved. It could happen to people who list a middle initial or hyphenated name on their voter registration and not their license, or people with accented letters on one record but not the other, Rendine said.
The office gets updated versions of PennDot and voter-registration rolls each year, said Lorraine Bellinger-Alston, supervisor of the office's administrative unit.
The office's IT department, an outside vendor, and the U.S. Postal Service all play roles in preventing duplicates, Rendine said, and people with duplicate listings are sent instructions on how to correct their records. He considers the issue to be "fairly widespread."
"We don't have a record as to how many dupes we have over a year," he said. "When we get them, we change it."
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Citizens summoned for jury duty are exempt from being called again for a year, while those who serve for three days or more are then exempt for three years, Rendine said. Those who think they get called too often because of a duplication issue can call the commissioner's office to see how many times they appear in the database.
"We would need to review individual examples to understand why a specific voter's record differs from their PennDot record," said Ellen Lyon, a Department of State spokesperson. "The PennDot record and county voter rolls are separate databases and individuals may update their PennDot records more frequently."
Lyon said the department has joined the nonprofit Electronic Registration Information Center, which should help "improve the process for generating lists of jury candidates" through better voter-roll accuracy.
It's not just a Philly thing, either. The Montgomery County Jury Selection Commission's Office said the issue of duplicates arises about 10 times a week. And while duplicates could be a reason people think they're called to jury duty more often than a neighbor, some could be confusing federal and local summons. Federal jurors locally are chosen from voter-registration lists, according to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
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Lynn Marks, chair of the First Judicial District's Juror Participation Initiative Committee, can understand why people like Brodie-Mackin get frustrated.
"There are a lot of reasons why somebody might be in the system more than once, so I know that that can be annoying," she said.
There's no secret sauce as to why someone may receive a summons more regularly than others. A report released last spring from Marks' committee found that more than one-third of Philadelphians don't respond to calls for jury service, taxing a system that struggles to process hundreds of cases a year and Philadelphians who do respond to summonses.
"This high nonresponse rate raises a potential threat to the court's ability to provide sufficient panels of would-be jurors for civil and criminal trials and results in the court's excessive reliance on those who do fulfill their civic duty by responding to the summons for jury service," the report said.
Nearly 100,000 citizens are called for jury duty every year in Philadelphia, according to the Philadelphia courts' website. No-shows cause others to get called more frequently, Rendine said.
Jade Perry, 25 of South Philadelphia, said she thinks she's been called to jury duty a bit excessively — four times, serving on a trial once, she said. Rendine's office said Perry appeared in its system only once.
"I think you need to serve on the trial to realize how important it is," Perry said. She added that it might be inconvenient, but "if you get summoned, just suck it up and go."