Some Maryland citizens are giving up the opportunity to vote to guarantee that they will not be called for local jury duty, according to election officials and interviews with people who have taken their names off voter registration rolls.

The issue has prompted two state senators to introduce bills designed to alter the jury selection process, which they say discourages voting because it draws solely on voter registration lists.

"There are a lot of reasons people don't want to serve on juries -- money, inconvenience, the pressure of deciding someone else's fate," said Sen. George W. Della Jr. (D-Baltimore), the sponsor of one of the bills. "Those things can be roadblocks to someone's decision to vote, because they don't want their names drawn for jury duty."

Marvin Meyn, deputy administrator of the state Board of Elections, said no statistics are available on how many Marylanders have had their names stricken from voter registration lists to escape jury duty. "It's not a trend . . . but whether it's one person or a thousand, we're concerned about it. If there's a problem, we need to find some way to correct it.

I really don't think they understand what they're saying," Meyn added. "It's a cop-out."

Some who have canceled their voter registration disagree. They say they would love to vote, but that Maryland's system of choosing juries forced them to make an unpleasant choice.

"I just hated to take my name off the list," said Patricia Ann Cornwell, 52, who operates a day-care center out of her Upper Marlboro home. "I wasn't trying to duck my duty, but people depend on me and their employers depend on them. I was thinking of the welfare of the children."

Similarly, a self-employed Howard County nurse, who asked not to be identified, said she deleted her name from the voter registration rolls in 1989 after being summoned for jury duty three times in 18 months. "It just interfered with my job too much," the 43-year-old nurse added.

All Maryland counties except Worcester pick jurors only from voter registration rolls. Worcester uses driver's license lists as well. Jury commissioners elsewhere frown on using anything but voter registration rolls because they don't believe Maryland law gives them explicit permission to do so, officials said.

Sen. Albert W. Wynn (D-Prince George's) has introduced a bill that would authorize jury commissioners to cull names from driver's license lists in addition to voter rolls. The bill, scheduled to be voted on in the Judicial Proceedings Committee next week, "would make the language of the law very clear," Wynn said.

Della's bill would excuse voters from jury duty if they had cast their ballots in both the previous primary and general elections. "I don't know if this is the answer," he said, "but something's got to give."

Maryland is one of 34 states in which at least one county picks jurors from something other than voter rolls. Some use property tax rolls, telephone directories or lists of utility customers.

In Virginia, only registered voters become jurors. Federal courts in the two states also rely on voter lists to find prospective jurors.

Drawing on multiple sources has gained popularity in recent years as states have attempted to find better cross sections of citizenry for jury pools. The District, for instance, takes names from voter registration rolls and driver's license lists.

"If you want minorities and the young, then drivers lists help," said George Thomas Munsterman, director of the Center for Jury Studies of the National Center for State Courts in Arlington.

People who avoid jury duty "put the burden on the rest of us. It hurts the integrity of the system," Munsterman said.

Law enforcement officials agree. "It bothers me because we need good people to serve on juries," Howard County State's Attorney William R. Hymes (D) said. "I realize the terrible imposition {of jury duty}, but we're all working together. If you want to enjoy the benefits of the county, you have to partake of the responsibilities."

But sometimes public duties clash with private responsibilities.

The Howard County nurse said that repeated jury duty forced her to cancel too many appointments for the special blood treatment she performs. "It was basically a choice between jury duty and my family," the nurse said. "I really don't care what people think. I have a family to support."

Stephen J. Buckley, of Bowie, and his wife, Beverly, deleted their names from the voter rolls in 1989 because they were starting a travel agency and feared that jury duty might cause the business to fail.

Now Beverly Buckley runs the travel agency and her husband is back at the Department of Energy. Neither has reregistered.

Stephen Buckley, 36, said that for him "it's a matter of principle. It's not a good system. The people who don't vote, who don't want to be involved with society, they get out of jury duty. I didn't think it was fair that people can opt out."

The Buckleys fit the profile of people who are inclined to pass on jury duty, said Stephen Knack, a doctoral candidate in economics at the University of Maryland who studies voter trends.

Knack said that citizens who avoid serving on juries usually work more than 20 hours a week and "find it highly inconvenient to perform jury duty."

Middle- and working-class individuals often find jury duty a financial hardship because their employers don't pay them for missed days, Knack said. In Maryland, the government pays jurors up to $25 a day.

But for 34-year-old Tracy Alterman of Columbia, the issue is not the money but the responsibility. She served on a jury in a civil case in March 1988, and has now chosen to avoid being tapped again, because "I don't like having to decide other people's lives. It's hard enough to make decisions about your own life."

Others on the panel "loved it," Alterman said, but she couldn't bear "the guilt, the wondering whether you made the right decision. You just can't forget about it. I don't want that on my mind."

Alterman said she doesn't intend to reregister to vote, but Cornwell and others said they would sign up again if the jury selection system changes.

"It's like the draft," Buckley said. "What would happen if they had a draft, but didn't penalize anyone for not signing up? They wouldn't have a draft like that. It would be silly."