Petitions, petitions, petitions

Petitions are formal written requests concerning an issue, consisting of a list of names and signatures addressed to those activists seek to influence. The list of names represents moral force and the measure of protest, so the more signatures collected the better. In the process of collecting signatures, campaigners will probably engaged in raising awareness of the issue, getting people who were unaware of the issue to sign their support having learnt about the campaign. Donations may be collected at the same time as signatures so a petition may form a method of fundraising. The advent of the internet makes on-line petitioning a useful technique for increasing international support, however, unchecked, e-signatures may make it easier for people to sign several times undetected so that the power of the signature is devalued. The British Government is actively encouraging e-petitioning on its website, and could be seen to be using petitions as an alternative to holding referendums. As of 2007, petitions existed for issues as diverse as stopping specific school closures and the use and manufacture of cluster bombs. Petitions are often used in conjunction with letter writing campaigns, and the two methods together can help give weight to a lobby. Petitions have been instrumental in historical campaigns such as the abolition of slavery. The delivery of the petition to the Prime Minister may be used in itself as a symbolic political act by campaigners.