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


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