Petition Form

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Petition Form

What is a petition form?

Before answering the question “what is a petition form?”, it’s first necessary to define the term “petition”, because there is some confusion around it. A petition is a written document asking a figure of authority, often an elected official or somebody in government, to support a particular cause. 

Individuals and organizations that create petitions use petition forms (also called “petitioners”) to publicize their cause and collect signatures from supporters. Nowadays, most petition forms are hosted online, and signatures must be stored securely in accordance with various local, national, and even supra-national rules. GDPR, CCPA, ECPA, and so on are all examples of these kinds of regulations.

Are all petition forms for political purposes?

Sometimes, petition forms may be used as internal documents to complete processes that require signatures. A candidate for student president, for example, may need to “petition” the appropriate election authority with the necessary number of signatures to have their name placed on the ballot. In the vast majority of cases, however, petition forms are used to collect the signatures of individuals that wish to express support for a political cause. 

What are petition forms used for?

In a nutshell, petition forms are used to gather signatures. These signatures are then affixed to a petition, or written request to undertake a particular course of action regarding a political cause, sent to an official or government department. 

Petition forms are made up of two main parts. First, a description of what the petition is about. This gives prospective signees an overview of the cause to which they are being to give their support along with information about the individuals or organization, such as the applicable government department, to whom the petition will be sent. Second, petition forms also include fields for signatures and signee details, such as their name and address.

Why are petition forms important documents?

Petition forms are important documents because it would be practically impossible to collect the signatures required to validate a petition without them. Some governments have laws that stipulate thresholds for numbers of signatures, over which a particular course of action, such as a debate in parliament, must be undertaken. 

Petition forms provide an efficient, effective way of organizing petitions and gathering signatures to signify broad support. Their key benefits are that they are easy to create, distribute, and aggregate data from, especially when using online forms and database software. 

What are the different types of petition forms?

Generally speaking, the term “petition form” refers to a publicly-available document that anybody can use to express support for a cause by providing their signature. Petition forms are usually hosted online, and signatures are automatically stored in secure online databases. That said, sometimes organizations may use more traditional “pen-and-ink” forms. 

The one exception to this case regards petition forms used for internal or formal legal processes that require supporting signatures from one or more parties. 

You may, for example, have come across phrases like “divorce petition” and “petition to run for office”. In these cases, the term “petition form” designates the form submitted to the relevant authority with the necessary signatures attached, rather than a public form used to acquire as many signatures as possible. For example, a “divorce petition” is a legal document requiring both spouses’ signatures, which can then be used to begin separation proceedings. 

While acting on the request of a generic petition is ultimately down to the discretion of the recipient, acquiring the specified number of signatures for more formal internal petitions usually guarantees acceptance. The latter process is referred to as “petitioning” the relevant authority. 

What is a “petition for alien relative”?

Another term that you may come across is “petition for alien relative”. This is a document (unrelated to normal petition forms) used by government agencies like the Department of State (DOS), Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to process applications and supporting documentation (filing fees, fee waivers, etc.) from family members of US citizens with eligibility for residency. These forms can be downloaded from the relevant .gov and .edu webpages. 

More detailed information, like the respondent’s social security number, mail address, employment status, telephone number, and so on, will be required on these forms. 

What should a petition form include?

Petition forms are relatively straightforward documents. Whether hosted online or distributed as paper documents, they tend to include several standard fields.

Here is an overview of the main areas that petition forms contain: 

  • Description of petition – The beginning of a petition form usually includes details about the cause for which support is being generated. This will be unique to each form and can be as short or long as necessary. A concise description may be formatted in the following way: “The US government must provide all US citizens with a guaranteed income. Sign to show your support!”
  • Signee details – Forms may include fields for the signee’s name, email address, address, phone number, mailing address, and so on. The exact fields displayed will vary from form to form. 
  • Signature field – Because the primary purpose of a petition form is to gather signatures, it is necessary to include either a physical or digital signature field. 
  • Privacy guarantee – Organizations may wish to reassure signees that their personal details will be stored safely and used only in accordance with the law. 
  • Additional comments and suggestions – Sometimes, petition forms will include a field for comments, thoughts, and any additional information. 

Should you use a template to create petition forms?

Petition forms tend to be straightforward documents. If your company or non-profit organization regularly asks its customers or supporters to sign petitions, then using a template is an excellent idea. 

Doing so will remove the need to create a separate form every time you want to collect signatures for a new petition. Furthermore, once a petition format is agreed upon with higher-level management, future approval will often no longer be necessary. 

Use the free and fully-customizable template provided by PandaDoc to get started. You can use it to create individual petition forms in a fraction of the time it would take compared to starting from scratch each time.