Write and Circulate a Petition
Strategic Value: Ultimately, elected officials are accountable to their constituents and because of this, they should (hopefully) care about how their constituents feel about a particular issue. One of the clearest indicators on where constituents stand on an issue can be expressed in sheer volume through a petition. Use a petition to show an elected official that many people care about a particular issue. Petitions work best when you have enough time budgeted to collect signatures and a plan for a proper delivery.
This guide will go over creating and circulating traditional petitions.
- Signature petitions have very little impact without big numbers.
- The strongest kind of petitions include a clear ask and a strong position on the issue.
- Petitions that are mailed are less effective than petitions delivered by a large number of people with coverage from the media.
- Make sure that all signers live in your district. To make it simpler, you can have different petitions for different congresspeople, or target a senator.
How-to create a petition:
- Choose a target.
- An effective target is a person who has the power to give you what you want. In most cases, this will be your elected official. Address the petition directly to the target.
- Write the message.
- Keep this short and sweet. Start with a two to three sentence overview of the issue.
- Add two to three facts to support your position. Feel free to use talking points from our issue guides here.
- Make a Specific Ask.
- Ask your target to take a concrete action. You can ask them to vote for or against a specific bill, ask their colleagues to support or oppose a piece of legislation, or make a statement opposing an executive order.
- Create space for people to sign and fill their information.
- Aim for six to ten lines per page. You want to provide plenty of space to write, but perhaps more importantly, you want the pile to look large.
- At the minimum include space for the person’s name and ZIP code or address to show the elected official that the signer is a constituent. You can also add space for email addresses, phone numbers or a volunteer check box.
How to collect signatures:
- Collect signatures in high-traffic areas and places where you know you can get support. Remember, you are going for quantity, so don’t spend a lot of time in difficult areas.
- Recruit other people to help and go out in groups. You’ll be able to collect more petitions this way. Remember, there’s strength in numbers.
- Go door to door in your neighborhood.
- Bring your petition to group meetings you go to, like the PTA or church, or your band practice.
- Watch how people sign your petition; you want to make sure they fill in all the fields correctly.
- Create an online version of your petition through a site like petitions.moveon.org and promote it through social media. Find tips on our Strategic Tactic Guide: Social Media.
Deliver the petition: While you can mail or fax in your petitions, you can draw more attention to your issue by planning a delivery. You can use our Strategic Tactic Guide: Earned Media Events or follow the tips here.
- Bring as many folks with you as possible. Even one to two other participants make a huge difference.
- Be creative. Are you asking your congressperson to vote against repealing the Affordable Care Act? Deliver bandages to go along with your petition or have all your participants wear surgical masks.
- Create a visual with the petitions. Again, petitions are strategic because of their numbers. What can you do to emphasize the number of signers?
- String the petitions together
- Paste them on a giant sign
- Stack them in small boxes
- Pitch the event to local media outlets. See our Strategic Tactic Guide: Garnering Media Attention
- Make copies of your petitions before you give them away. It’s useful to for follow-up emails and phone calls.
After the delivery: Organize!
Build on your delivery by reaching out to folks who signed your petition and plan further actions.
- Post about your delivery on social media. Post pictures and describe the experience.
- Call all your signers. If you don’t know the person, ask to meet up for coffee and talk about their interest in the issue.
- Plan a meeting for next steps. Invite everyone who signed the petition, and ask folks who attended the delivery to speak about the experience.
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