How Does a Petition Work?

By Donna Thacker

A petition is an instrument drawn up on paper. The heading of the petition will state the cause, or reason, someone has decided to circulate a petition. The petition is circulated amongst people and if they agree to the statement the petition is making, they sign it. Petitions are used to influence decisions, to protest something or to get something changed. Depending on the use of the petition, there are certain guidelines that must be followed.

Election Petitions

In some communities, those that plan to run for a seat on their municipal board must have petitions signed by residents of that community. Each candidate will go house to house asking for the community's support. Those who support that candidate, and are registered voters, will sign the petition and fill in their address. Each candidate must have a certain number of signatures from within their voting district.

The candidate then has the petition notarized and files his petition with the clerk of the municipality, who in turn files all of the candidate's petitions with the clerk of the county in which they reside. This puts the candidate onto the voting ballot for the coming election.

Complaint Petitions

Petitions are also used to voice a complaint on work related items, or to get a business or municipality to consider changing something or to influence a decision. This sort of petition can be typed up and distributed by anyone.

The heading of the petition must state exactly what the signing parties are asking for or want to change. This petition is circulated around either a workplace, business or community, depending on the situation.

When the petitioner has gathered as many signatures as possible, she presents the petition to the party that she is trying to influence. Large businesses will receive petitions asking for them to do something differently or to perhaps stop doing some sort of business that the local people do not want done in their town.

Petitions of this sort have no legal bearing, they just carry the voice and opinion of the community to the higher ups in businesses or corporations. The heads of the company may take the petition's request into consideration, but that doesn't necessarily mean they will adopt anything that the petition requests.

Legal Petitions

The term petition also refers to legal papers filed in a court of law. Petitioning the court is when legal papers are filed by an attorney for a judge to look at and make a legal ruling on. These papers simply state a case and ask that the presiding judge make a legal determination. Once the judge agrees to the stipulations on the petition and other legal papers and signs them, they become legal and binding to the parties that filed them with the court.

About the Author

Donna Thacker has been a writer/photographer for over 15 years. She held the position of associate editor/writer/photographer at Biker Ally Magazine. She currently is a photojournalist for The Biking Life, and has been featured on the front page of The Greenville Advocate, The Hillsboro Journal and The Sorento News. Thacker also designed and published several booklets of historical interest for local organizations.