Sample Petition Forms

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Petitions--technically defined as a written address to an individual, official, or government body--are most commonly used to collect signatures of citizens, whether to get a candidate on an electoral ballot or to pressure government deputies to vote one way or another. With a history stretching back at least to the Magna Carta in Great Britain in 1215, petitions are an established right in many countries. They are certainly written into the U.S. Constitution.

Bringing Change with Petitions

The least demanding form of civic participation, petitions are used in considerably more mundane venues than local or national politics, of course. The last one that I signed, for example, protested--vainly--the new lighting around a renovated National Park stable in Rock Creek Park near the District of Columbia. The one before that was a cry--successful--to tighten parking restrictions in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia in favor of local residents. The fact of the matter is, however, that most applications are either essentially or in fact also petitions. A credit application is a good example, being nothing more than a formal request to a bank or other financial institution.

At their simplest, then, petitions are simple documents with several carefully worded and clear sentences or paragraphs addressing the matter at hand, followed by page after page of signatures. Physical signatures are mandatory in most cases, but electronic ones are growing more and more prevalent in recent years. Certainly in political or social circumstances, multiple collected signatures are part and parcel of a petition. Many petitions, though, must adhere to a specific format to be considered, making petition forms created by professionals useful tools.

The power of a petition as a tool to bring about social or political change, however, goes far beyond the number of legitimate signatures attached to it. (The subject of forged signatures is a separate topic, and a highly problematic one when it comes to politics in certain parts of the world.) Journalists write about petitions, for example. Petition signers can be galvanized, once they have signed, into further action.


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