Over the past couple of weeks, I have explored several different ways individuals can make a difference advocating for motorists by engaging elected officials. These include letter/email writing, editorial writing, making phone calls or meeting in person with your elected official(s). A petition campaign is also a great way to bring awareness of the problem to your neighbors and friends, the media and best of all, the elected officials whom you want to take action.
And literally, one person can create a petition drive. For example, this week, a Texas man has garnered 10,000 online signatures to change how toll fees work in Texas.
First of all, what is a petition?
A petition is a statement signed by a group of supporters of the petition that calls on a specific target to take action. An example of a petition for motorist advocates—asking voters to decide on whether their city, county or state should use red-light cameras. A petition is a great way to show how many people actually support your position.
In this day and age, you can put together an online petition or an offline petition. Online, the petition can be “signed” by a person through your website, emailed to others and distributed via social media. Offline is the hard copy of the petition that can be signed by folks in person at events, meetings, or anywhere else people congregate. According to the AAUW (Association for American University Women) website, petitions are most successful when both offline and online petitions are used so that you can constantly collect signatures wherever you are.
One person of course can start a petition but to form a small group of dedicated people can also enhance the experience by expanding the scope beyond just yourself.
How do you develop a petition drive?
Just like any project, there are three parts: the beginning, the middle and the end result.
First of all, you need to decide the following before you put the petition out for the public:
- Define the situation you want to change. Come up with an understandable, simple and short statement that is easy to remember. This could be a slogan or even a catch phrase so that people can adopt the phrase as their own.
- Choose your target. Who has the power to make this change? Your target is quite important. If it is the city council for example, check into any rules that need to be applied to your petition. How many signatures, when and where can you present the final petition,etc.
- Choose your time frame. Always best to keep the time frame short so that there is some urgency to signing the petition and you can keep any volunteers beyond yourself motivated.
Now the action begins…
- Write the petition. Remember, the petition needs to read the same both online and offline. Keep the language simple so that the signees and the target of your petition will understand what you want to achieve. Describe the problem (Red-Light Cameras) and the solution (citizens should be allowed to vote on Red-Light Cameras in the community). Then include the Ask or action you want the target to take (Put the question on the ballot). A well written petition should communicate urgency of the problem (Put the Red-Light Camera vote on the ballot in November). The AAUW website recommends keeping the petition between one and three paragraphs in length.
- Create the actual petition online or offline. Make sure you ask for everything that the target needs such as First and Last Name, zip code, and email address.
- Collect signatures. Send a note or email or phone call to all your family, friends and neighbors to sign your petition. Bring the petition wherever you go so that you can talk about the issue with people you know and meet. Make sure you keep sending it to friends and family online as well. Walking the streets, knocking on neighbors’ doors and standing in front of stores work too. Make sure you follow any ordinances and be polite and ask the store owner or manager if you can set up your table and petition drive.
- Contact your local media and let them know what you are doing and ask them if they would like an interview. Be bold and just state your case.
Results are in….
- Deliver your petition. Best to do this in person. Make an appointment and show up with all the materials and all the signed pages of the petition (both offline and online). Make sure you take a photo to prove you were there and don’t forget to alert the media of the date and time that the delivery of the petition will happen.
- Follow up with all your signees. Write them an email that you or your group have delivered the petition and explain what should happen next. Tell them what your target said and encourage your supporters to write letters and make phone calls. Engage them in the process and the outcome!
Writing a petition can be a great way to advocate for something you believe in and get others in your community excited about helping.
Be safe and have fun driving!