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 A Plea for Action.

Petitions are a collection of signatures from individuals that support your cause. The intent of a petition is to show it to decision makers that have power to create the change that you want. There are different types of petitions: governmental and non-governmental. 




Petitions are directed to the local government, and at times county, state, or federal levels. The purpose of this type of petition can be to place a particular issue on the ballot, support a candidate for office on a ballot, recall a candidate from office, or support/oppose a proposed legislation/regulation.

 This type of petition:

  • Has designated rules for how the signatures must be collected

    • Whether that is municipal, county, state, or federal​, procedures are legally in place

  • Procedures must be followed or the petition can be invalid

  • Once procedures are followed, the petition becomes valid



Petitions are directed to non-governmental organizations (ex. businesses, private organizations). The purpose of this type of petition is to get non-governmental organizations to show support of the group/organization submitting the petition.

 This type of petition:

  • Has no designated rules for how the signatures must be collected

  • Carries no guarantee of action once petition is submitted

  • Varies in content


Petition drives are means to maximize the success of a petition and reach signature goals. They are led with the efforts to:

  • Increase the community's awareness of the issue

  • Bring visibility to the group

  • Establish community support

  • Improve the community's wellbeing


Though petition drives take lots of work and dedication, it is important to also note that a petition is usually not enough to achieve the change you desire. Accompanied by other tactics (see "use your voice" page for examples), petitions can be strong enough to bring an issue to decision-makers' attention and hopefully advance the change your group seeks. If there is a significant amount of public support for your issue, your petition may be strong enough to motivate decision makers. So long as petitions have not been overused as a tactic in your community, and there are enough people to collect the signatures needed for a petition drive, you are in good standing to move forward with a petition for your cause.

So how do you actually carry out a petition drive?

The steps are simple, but it does take more than just asking people to sign a paper that supports the cause. First, identify what you want to accomplish and how; have clarity around the audience at which the petition would be aimed. Second, clarify your moving forces: What moved you to care for the issue you will address in a petition? Why now? How would a petition benefit your community? Once you have clarified, the rest of the work depends on the type of petition you plan to carry out.


For policy change at the local level, a governmental petition would be the best option. Success in carrying out a governmental petition depends on following the rules set out by the governmental authority. 

Governmental petition rules are based on...

  • Amount of signatures needed

  • If all of the signatures need to be on certified petition sheets

  • Form of signature required for each supporter (print/signature/both)

  • If addresses, wards, and precincts are required

  • Additional information of signer/submitter

  • Limitations to adhere to

  • When to return petition

  • Who to return petition to

  • Signature verification

  • Steps that follow upon submission


This is why it is so important to follow the do not want your petition to be disqualified because of one small rule you oversaw. Pay attention to every detail because if your petition ends up being successfully submitted, it has the potential to advance community change. 


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