It comes as no surprise when we say we are in the business of petitions. Circulating is what we do. However, when we say we circulate petitions, we’re talking about physical petitions. You know, the ones with an actual piece of paper that you sign with an actual pen. However, with websites like change.org popping up, a new sort of petition is becoming increasingly popular: the online petition.
You’ve probably opened an email from a stranger in the last year, pleading for your support. That measure of support is probably linked back to an online petition asking you for your name and email as a measure of support.
In an age where everything is moving virtual – especially in times of COVID-19 – you might wonder: is an online petition worth it? More than that, is it the smart move moving forward?
Online Petition Validity
The short answer? No.
While online petitions do an excellent job at garnering emotion about a subject, their long-term reach isn’t as impressive.
For starters, since the petitions are online, they can’t serve as a legally binding contract. They lack the validity that legal petitions, like a statutory initiative petitions, hold.
Furthermore, there aren’t as many requirements for online petitions. For example, initiative petitions for things like statutory initiatives have numerous legal hoops to jump through. Without meeting all the requirements set forth by the state, these petitions never get off the ground. Online petitions, on the other hand, are much easier to circulate. As a tradeoff, though, they have less impact.
Online Petition Impact
When it comes to initiative petitions, the lasting impact could be astronomical. With statutory initiatives, the petitions start the ball rolling on a brand new law. Initiated constitutional amendments, on the other hand, can create lasting changes to decades-old state constitutions.
Now, that’s not to say that online petitions carry no weight. The more signatures they garner, the more local representatives recognize the impact of an issue. Online petitions carry the power to make people’s voice heard – as with any petition. However, it’s still not nearly the weight of an initiative petition.
Ultimately, online petitions may be very successful at raising awareness or drawing attention to issues. That’s the effect of anything that goes viral. Nonetheless, you won’t see an online petition creating a new law or amending a state constitution.
Online Petition Scope
Furthermore, the scope of online petitions tends to be different than that of other sorts of petitions. For example, a statutory initiative may be focused on enacting a very specific piece of legislation. In contrast, an online petition might be focused on ending global warming.
That’s not to say that the focus of online petitions can’t be important or even actionable. It’s simply to say that, because there are fewer restrictions and regulations, the scope tends to be broader. Because of this, online petitions tend to be less effective overall than a more specific type of petition.
Are they worth the hassle?
Again, the short answer here is no. The long answer is that an online petition would be incredibly ineffective in our line of work. We would never accomplish anything if we resorted to online petitions. This is simply because an online petition, at least at the moment, would never meet the requirements for the types of petitions we circulate.
However, if your main goal is simply to raise awareness or draw attention to a matter, an online petition could be an effective option. Ultimately, to determine whether an online petition is “worth it” or not, you have to figure out your goal first.
If you determine that your goal requires more than an online petition, get in contact with us. We’ll help you make it happen.