1. Carry multiple clipboards – while one person is signing, you can get others to sign. Experience petioners may carry 6 or more clipboards! You also need to bring a notebook, lots of pens, some light literature, and some voter registratin forms (if it is legal for you to register voters in your state).
  2. Have one or two very fast "stopper" lines – lines you can use to get people to stop. For example: "Hi! Sign a petition to make government work again?"
  3. Once a person stops you have about 30 seconds to make your pitch. You show her (or him) the petition while you give the extremely brief presentation. You give her your practiced pitch, and then hold a pen out to her, at about chest level, inviting her to take the pen.
  4. Once he (or she) takes the pen, you say something confirming, like "Terrific!" or "Great!" Then ask if they are registered to vote – if the answer is "No,", then you say, "Well, that's OK, I can register you to vote right now." You register them, then get their sig on the petition.
  5. Once you know they are registered to vote, you need to give them clear instructions on what to do – you'd be shocked at how many signatures are lost if the petitioner doesn't do this. E.g. "First sign here, then carefully print your name underneath your signature just like you are registered to vote. Then put your address over here, and your city and zip code on the line underneatch that. You need to put the address you are registered to vote at." Then, while they are signing, you solicit other people to sign.
  6. When the person is done signing, they'll typically want to give you the petition and pen and be on their way. Take only the clipboard, and leave them with the pen for the moment. Then check to make sure they signed correctly – you'll be quite surprised to see how many people screw up. For example, they forget to put their address, or forget to print their name. When this happens, I typically say something like, "Hmmm… what is your address, please?" Then I write it in for them.
  7. Once you've verified the sig, you take the pen back, and politely thank the person.

  9. You must be unflinchingly polite, no matter what kind of yahoos you run into.
  10. Don't be distressed when you get a lot of refusals. These things tend to run in streaks. You'll probably get a whole bunch of sigs in a row pretty soon.
  11. On the other hand, if you regularly feel like you could be doing much better, try some practice with the petition coordinator or another petioner. Maybe your wording or your technique could be improved.
  12. You should be prepared to briefly answer common questions – do some role playing and practicing before you actually go out petitioning.
  13. On the back of each clipboard, have a more detailed explanation that curious people can read.
  14. Don't get caught up in long conversations or arguments. You need to get 100 or 200 sigs a day in a normal petition campaign. You just don't have time to spend like that. If he (or she) wants to argue, or ask questions forever, you show him the back of the clipboard and say, "Well, this explains the initiative much better than I can." Then you leave him there with a pen attached to the clipboard, in case he actually decides to sign.
  15. For enthusiastic people, ask them if they'd like to help gather signatures or make a donation. If so, take their contact information, and give them a flyer with the campaigns' contact information. If they want to donate cash on the spot, you should write them a reciept.
  16. Try to find spots where is a lot of foot traffic. Going door-to-door is way too slow!
  17. Be aware of the laws in your state (and your county, for that matter). E.g., in most of California, one can petition outside stores as long as you don't block traffic, you are not harassing people, etc.


-- Jim Lindsay, 5/99

In a previous life, Jim Lindsay was a professional petitioner, and he also managed a petition campaign.