Petitioning: A how-to guide

The only way to get petition signatures is to ask people for them. There is no way around that. This article will tell you how to do it successfully with minimal trauma.

Professional petitioners usually carry six clip boards and a box of extra pens. Always carry at least two. If you have a completed petition sheet, keep it underneath the petition sheet you ask people to sign. Getting that first signature on the sheet is often the hardest. You can show people that completed sheet to ease their fears.

The back of your clipboard can be decorated with LP stuff. I’ve found an official sticker helps, as does a green sketch of a marijuana leaf, “two parties = no choice,” anti-war sentiments, “Maximize freedom by Minimizing government,” and so on. People will ask “Libertarians who?” Ouch. You know it happens. Those stickers help.

Planning ahead is the best strategy to get signatures. Find places and times when crowds will be waiting. You do not want to disturb or inconvenience people more than is necessary. Lines of people waiting for a rock concert at a theater, a band concert in the park, waiting for a parade to begin – especially a patriotic parade – are great opportunities. Start 45 minutes ahead of time. Once the event begins you are done. The standard line is: “Can you help me out? I’d like to get this candidate on the ballot and I need your signature.” You, not the candidate, are asking the person for their signature. If they sign they are helping you. Thank them when they sign. Once that person is signing, pass out the other clipboards.

People will ask “What am I signing for?” Tell them they are signing to get a candidate on the ballot. They are not obliged to vote for the candidate. Their name will not be put on any list.

“We all want more choice, don’t we?” “Are you are happy with the choices you’ve got?” “Sign this so you can vote against them.”

Remember, they are signing for you, not the candidate. If they ask about the candidate, say they are just a person who we, the party, thinks belongs on the ballot.

“I’d sign your petition if you were running. don’t you think this person deserves a chance?”

If they ask about issues, don’t let them get you bogged down. You aren’t there to debate – that’s the candidate’s job. If you have a sticker on the back of your clipboard that covers it, show it. If they ask about abortion tell them “Every candidate in the party is free to vote their own conscious on that issue.” Then leave for the next potential signer. Again, don’t let them bog you down. Your time is short, keep moving.

So who are the best people to approach for a signature? I’ve found that people who look like me are. Which is another way of saying, if you are comfortable around them, they will be comfortable around you. We are a diverse party. Pick your own crowd.

I’ve passed out copies of the World’s Smallest Political Quiz before as a thank you. Sometimes I’ve just passed them out. Remember you are there to get signatures, not educate the crowd. Remember to stay positive, keep moving, stop before you need to stop, then start planning your next petition gathering.


This how-to article was written by Kevin Litten. Kevin has been a member of the Libertarian Party since 1996. The opinion expressed in this piece is his own. He may be reached at


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