REPORTER’S NOTEBOOK | Do online petitions make a difference?

Photos by Ericnvntr (keyboard) and Ibai Lemon (fists). Both Creative Commons.

There are notable successes: after 300,000 people signed a petition opposing Bank of America’s enactment of a monthly fee on its debit cards, the bank dropped them. Although petition asking that charges be dropped against a woman named Julie Bass for growing vegetables in her front yard garnered a relatively modest 31,000 signatures, it was enough to persuade Oak Park, Michigan authorities to drop the case.

According to CNN, more than one million people have signed NAACP and petitions in the wake of George Zimmerman’s “not guilty” verdict in the Trayvon Martin killing. Both petitions ask that the U.S. Department of Justice file federal civil rights charges against Zimmerman.

Overall, how successful are online petitions? Are there petitions that are legally binding? I’m working on a story about online petitions to be published within the next few weeks. I’ll be talking to Twin Cities petition authors about their experiences, and share data about overall success rates, including a comparison of online and hard copy petitions. I’d like to hear from you, too, about your experience with petitions and your opinions of them; email me at michelestmartin [at] tcdailyplanet [dot] net.

  • Hi, I've recently been rejected three times by the Veterans Administration (VA) for restorative work on my rotted teeth and jaw. I believe that I am qualified for such care under the law already in existence, but the VA disagrees. That's why I created a petition to The United States House of Representatives, The United States Senate, and President Barack Obama, which says: " How can someone eat properly and be in good health if they have rotting teeth and jaw? We should not have to determine who is a veteran by looking at their rotted teeth. The VA can not be noted as being a World-Class medical provider without this complete dental service being universally provided, rather than to the rare few as it is currently." Will you sign my petition? Click here to add your name: Please pass this petition on to your friends, and ask them to do the same. Thanks! - by Richard Levine on Wed, 10/22/2014 - 8:25am
  • was the follow up story ever done? - by Lorri Davis-Higgins on Thu, 07/03/2014 - 3:41pm
  • I very much want to know that petitions DO work. With that said, I would also like some concrete proof that they do. There are so many injustices going on in this world that I find it frustrating and want to do something about my pet peeves. Signing petitions is one way - if in fact they have any impact. I live in a small town two hours from any large city, and 40 minutes from the Mexican border. Getting "out there" and marching/picketing is not an option for me. - by Jacqueline Andes on Fri, 02/14/2014 - 2:00pm