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California Moves to Ditch Citizenship Requirement for Jury Duty

The nation's most populous state would be the first to drop citizenship requirement for serving on a jury.

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The California State Assembly voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to remove the requirement in state law that jurors be U.S. citizens.

The bill, AB 1401, passed the state assembly with 45 votes in favor and 25 votes in opposition and now goes to the state senate.

The legislation allows the jury pool to be extended to "lawfully present immigrants." Potential jurors are pulled from state Department of Motor Vehicles records. The bill does not drop the requirement that would-be jurors speak English.

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"You are not required to be a citizen to participate in the judicial process as a party, as a witness, to work for the courts or even be a judge," said Democratic Assemblyman Luis Alejo, one of seven authors of the bill, the Sacramento Bee reports. "It's only a requirement to be a juror. It's not a requirement to be a citizen to serve in the military, either."

Republican Assemblyman Tim Donnelly objected to the bill, saying, according to the Bee: "We can't completely erase the distinction between being a citizen and not. ... There are certain requirements and responsibilities of being a citizen, and jury duty is one of those."

If passed, the legislation would make California the first state in the country to allow non-citizens on juries, according to The Associated Press.

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Supporters of the legislation point out that women were not allowed to serve on juries in many parts of the U.S. for much of the twentieth century.

Utah was the first state to allow women to serve on juries in 1898. A 1937 Time magazine article noted that despite ratification of the 19th Amendment allowing females to vote, 26 states still excluded them from juries. Alabama extended jury service to women after being ordered to do so by a federal court in 1966.

"This isn't about affording someone who would come in as a juror something," Democratic Assembly Speaker John Perez said Thursday, according to the AP. "But rather understanding that the importance of the jury selection process of affording justice to the person in that courtroom."

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