Step 1 – Gather Materials
Petition forms – make sure to use the right form and size paper! Contact your state party and see if it can be downloaded from their site website. Mess up this step and your efforts will be for naught.
Clipboards – or a similar hard surface to write on is essential. Any office supply store will have cheap clipboards. It’s OK to start with one, but once you progess as a petitioner you will find it faster collecting with three clipboard or more clipboards, so several people can sign at once. Use the “herding effect” to your advantage.
Pens – will be lost and run out of ink. Bring three times the number of clipboards you have. You may wish to attach a pen to each clipboard with string.
Rubber bands (optional) – that can be looped across your clipboard are helpful. If it’s windy, you can keep the petition forms flat with them. You can also use them to keep full petitions folded over the top or to hold pens or brochures.
Brochures (optional) – are useful for people who want more information about the Libertarian Party. DO NOT let this get in the way of collecting signatures. Hand them the lit and politely be on your way to get more signatures.
Step 2 – Find Petition Signers
There are three main ways to gather signatures. Mix and match as you like:
Go door to door – it’s the most time-intensive way, but the signatures are high quality and extremely valuable if petitions are challenged. If you are running a local campaign this will be the only way to go since you need to collect signatures of voters within your district. It’s also a great way to meet and greet around your neighborhood. If your state requires signers to be registered voters and you want to cut down on the number of doorbells to ring, obtain a list from your state party or the SOS.
Visit busy locations – it’s the fastest way to fill forms. If you choose public areas like court buildings, parks, drivers’ license facilities, bus and train stations, social security offices, libraries, festivals, or parades, be sure to avoid interfering with traffic flow. If you choose private property, like in front of stores, coffee shops, malls, concerts, sporting events, or theatres, ask permission from the manager before you start. Libertarians support property rights.
Ask people you know – it’s the easiest way but the total amount of you will be able to gather will be limited. Carry a clipboard with petition forms wherever you go. Ask your friends, relatives, co-workers (if not against company policy), and club members to sign. Every signature is needed and valued.
Step 3 – Collect Signatures
Smile, say hello, and ask “Are you registered to vote in [state]?” Possible answers to this question and your response:
Yes – “I’m collecting signatures to get people on the ballot in November. Will you help me?” Try giving them the clipboard and pen. “You just have to sign and print your name and address.” If they take the clipboard, thank them and stop talking.
No – “Thank you. Have a nice day.” Move on. Don’t get discouraged—petitioning is a numbers game. Ask enough people and you’ll get enough signatures.
Hesitates – “Signing doesn’t mean that you’ll vote for them; you’re just giving voters another choice.” Try giving them the clipboard and pen. You can also look them in the eye and add, “I hope you will help me out.”
Requests info – Plan a brief answer to “What are the Libertarians?” For example, “Libertarians are the sensible center of politics; they are both socially tolerant and economically responsible.” Do your best to keep each encounter short. Don’t spend your time in discussions while potential signers are passing by. If people want to talk politics, tell them “I’m just here to collect signatures today.” People wanting more info can be given a brochure or sent to your state party’s website.
10 Planks of Petitioning
- Go where the people are. Plan out a list of favorable locations in advance. If you are not getting 10-15 signatures an hour, go to a new location. You can use public sidewalks. Target younger crowds. The Post office, library, farmers markets and youth baseball games are reliable. Large events are great, just know where you can and can’t petition.
- Remember getting the candidate on the ballot is your foremost task. Get signatures and more signatures. Your job is not to educate. If needed, give a brief sentence or two description. Remember that the campaign only occurs if the candidate is on the ballot. Should not engage with someone for more than 1-2 minutes.
- Stand for free speech, free election, and choices. Remind people of the first amendment all day long, they need it. Also, it is hard for people to argue with more choices and free elections.
- Be willing to pinpoint a person on the scale, without wavering or hesitating. When a person asks what the candidate supports, reply with an issue you believe matters most to them. Reduce taxes, reduce government are reliable. Marijuana legalization, ant-war and anti-surveillance programs is excellent with younger demographics.
- Pay attention to your most frequent signers and focus on them. It’s more likely that women and younger people will sign your petition.
- Always tell the eligible voter that you are a volunteer. You will gain empathy and a signature this way. It also demonstrates your enthusiasm for this candidate/party.
- Ask them for: “a signature to get your buddy on the ballot.” Demonstrate that you know the candidate personally and that you vouch for their good moral character.
- Use people herding techniques. Ask other passerby’s if they would give you a signature while the others are signing.
- Use politeness and be a good representation of Libertarians. Always politely engage the passerby with “sir and ma’am.” Thank them afterwards. This is especially important if you will be returning to this location again. Also, you look less like a stranger on the street.
- Carry multiple clipboards, multiple petitions (if applicable). Approach a group and ask them all at once. Saves you time and you’ll get better results. If you are getting signatures for multiple candidates that have the same or overlapping districts (statewide/down-ballot races) stack the petitions. 3 different petitions is the maximum signers will have time for. A majority of people will sign all 3 if your location is ideal. In average conditions you will always have a majority of signers sign more than 1. Rotate petitions so that the signature counts stay even for all candidates.
The most important thing about gathering signatures is to not be afraid. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by how willing people are to help you and how many libertarians and people interested in learning more about libertarian ideas you will meet.
Step 4 – Turn in Petitions
Petitions should be given to the counting team assembling all the petitions so accurate totals can be gathered on an ongoing basis. Do not hold onto them!
By petitioning to get Libertarian candidates on the ballot, you are performing a noble public service. Even beyond supporting our candidates directly, being on the ballot makes the Libertarian Party “real” to voters and grows interest and activism in liberty.