The Lancaster County jury commissioner's office is trying to make it less of a headache to get called for jury duty.

Potential jurors aren't off the hook. They're still needed to weigh evidence and decide the trials that move through the county and district courtrooms in Lincoln.

But the office is streamlining how it handles the 1,000 to 2,000 notices it sends out each month to a pool of people who could end up sitting on a jury at Lincoln's Hall of Justice.

District Court Clerk Troy Hawk said when the jury commission moved to his office from the Lancaster County Election Commissioner's Office in November 2016, one of his primary goals was to try to make it more efficient.

The two clerks were handling a lot of paper, and they still need to for some things, Hawk said.

For others, he said, they worked with the city's information services staff, which already had developed a system to compile the list of potential jurors from the Department of Motor Vehicles and the Election Commission, to cut where they could.

Now potential jurors who get a packet in the mail to be summoned for jury duty can log on to a website at lancaster.ne.gov/discrt/jury and follow the link to complete the questionnaire online.

Before, they had to wait to get the packet back in the mail, then enter the information themselves, a redundancy cut out, jury clerk Nicole Miller said.

Then there were those who procrastinated filling out the paperwork who went to the courthouse to drop it off.

"This way, they can log on and as soon as they hit the final button at the end, they're done," Hawk said.

In December, the county started rolling out the changes slowly by giving half of the potential jurors for the February pool the option to respond online.

Hawk said they were excited to get a 28 percent response rate without any marketing. He'd been told by other jury commissioners across the state that 25 to 28 percent was as good as they could expect.

But, he said, it's like the Department of Motor Vehicles and other state agencies offering more online options.

"I think that's just an expectation that people have, that they can just do it electronically. And it also saves us a lot of time and effort," Hawk said.

Not only does it save staff time typing in the questionnaire information, it also ties into the system for paying jurors. So the office can track more easily and quickly who showed up for jury selection versus who was chosen to be on a jury.

For now, you can still expect to get a phone call from one of the two clerks in the office, if you're one of the 275 to 450 people on average a month of the pool called to report for jury duty.

Hawk said he thinks Lancaster County may be one of the few counties still to do it that way, rather than sending out an email or robocall, or having a recording that jurors call in to hear when and where they need to report.

No doubt about it, it takes the two clerks days to make all those calls.

But they like knowing for sure that potential jurors got the information.

No excuses.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-7237 or lpilger@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSpilger.

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Reporter

Lori Pilger is a public safety reporter.

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