Election Day 2012: Politics, Comedy, and Why We Have Twelve-Person Juries

Reading Time: 2 minutes

Election Day is tomorrow. Don’t forget to vote.

People who whine about policy but can’t be bothered to cast a ballot have no grounds to complain.

In the spirit of Election Day, here are five of my favorite politcally-themed clips of all-time.

In no particular order…

Terry Tate: Get Out and Vote

A character from one of the greatest Super Bowl commercials of all-time, this clip finds Terry Tate pushing the benefits of voting. Effective public service announcements combine memorable ideas, actionable directions,and a moderate amount of emotion. PSAs don’t get much better than this.

The Simpsons: 3rd party Candidates


Homer tangles with some aliens bent on world domination. The intransigence of our two-party political system and the unwillingness of most citizens to cast a “stray” vote is laid bare.

The dig at Ross Perot pushes it over the top.

The Simpsons: Amendment to be

click here for video

A “Schoolhouse Rock” parody on The Simpsons. A great song in its own right, this clip does a nice job of explaining the politics behind the legislation process.

12 Angry Men: Anger over the Secret Ballot

This is the full video. Scroll to the 31:00 mark to see the clip (31:00-33:50).

A classic clip from a classic movie. Not an election per se, but high-stakes voting nonetheless. The chief antagonist (“Juror #3”, played by Lee J. Cobb) is angered by the results of a secret ballot.

Funny line: “Golden-voiced preacher starts tearing your poor heart out….”

The power of Psychology is on full display throughout this movie. If you haven’t watched the 1957 version of this movie—the 90’s television remake is awful—do so.

A quick aside: Why We Have Twelve-Person Juries

Ever wonder why twelve jurors are assigned to a case in the American courts? Why not six or seven?

It’s not arbitrary.

Psychologists and other jury-selection professionals reasoned that a twelve-person jury ensured divergent perspectives on a case while still keeping proceedings orderly. A single, domineering voice can sway a room of mildly-interested, undecided jurors (see: The Asch Experiment).

The desire to be accepted by our peer groups is one of the most powerful motivators of human behaviors; people are less inclined to voice opinions at odds with group sentiment.

Pressure to conform to a group is significantly reduced if there is even one dissenting voice present. The smaller the jury count, the greater the risk of social loafing and juror conformity.

If the juror count is too large, deindividuation–the loss of independent thought and accountability—sets in. Increased instances of lawlessness during natural disasters (e.g. looting during Hurricanes Sandy and Katrina) is a given. ‘Twelve’ is a number that works.

When decisions that literally mean the difference between life and death are on the table, encouraging frank, open debate is critical.

King of the Hill: Voting Van


I apologize for the terrible quality of this video. The comedy still shines through.

This clip is from the “Board Games” episode of one of the more under-rated shows of the last twenty years, “King of the Hill”. Dale tries to wrangle up voters to support his wife’s bid for a seat on the school board. He gets more than he bargained for.

The irony of the scene is that the general public is rarely this motivated when it’s time to actually go to the polls.

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