This lesson believe it or not is NOT directed toward the “average” citizen in Newburyport. Most people are clueless how this process works and no matter what I say or not say isn’t going to change the situation. Some people see a petition and think that by signing it, they are automatically put in the “support” category. They fail to understand that this is an important arm of democracy. An opportunity to put a question before the electorate and the ELECTORATE then gets to decide later at the polls if it is against the ballot question or for it. Thus, when someone comes up to request a signature and you refuse, it is you not the volunteer who is against our democratic way of life.
Okay, so I’ll get off my soapbox.
This post is about you the volunteer who is attempting to get signatures.
As has been seen recently as a petition was spread around for the preservation of the park at Brown School; the effort to collect signatures failed.
I understand thankfully that the city councilors along with the Mayor are going to try to make an order through the legislative process to re-affirm the goals of the petition. This effort had little time to meet the deadline and it was clear, even though a goodly number of signatures were illegible, that the citizens have spoken. Not to sound too cynical, it is good that this effort was done in a political season!
So, this post that I am writing now is directed to the some 500 or so people who care very passionately about our local political causes.
Whenever you push a petition, make sure your instructions are very clear to a passerby. (Most won’t listen anyway so you have to be firm and repeat it again.) Of course the signer must be registered to vote and living in Newburyport*. But here is why the above petition failed. Make sure they sign it, then print above the signature, their full name. Consider the fact that the City Clerk’s office has to go through and confirm everyone of those signatures and if they see scribbling that is illegible, they will disqualify that line! They do not have the time to do a scavenger hunt trying to match the address with the name by accessing the assessor’s records. They know it is a waste of time since many who sign are renting and do not own the home. Old voting records are useless in this mobile society and do not cover new residents or someone who has moved over a few blocks.
Let’s repeat this. (I have done petitions for decades – listen to me!)
Make sure they sign it, then print above the signature, their full name.
Don’t let the citizen get away or you have just wasted a space on the petition.
Why am I stressing this? More likely as not; Mayor Holaday is going to be the next office holder for four long years. Not only did the New City Charter extend the Mayor’s term but it also made the mayor administratively stronger. We all know we have a head-strong, workaholic in our present corner office. Such dedication can often leave the rest of us citizens and what we consider important, left behind in the dust. I predict now that a flurry of petitions are going to be spawned in the next four years so at least we as voters can be heard.
If this comes to pass it is important that we do them right – a volunteer’s time is not paid and a volunteer’s dedication should not be punished with a wasted effort.
GET IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME!
PS. Besides, if Lord Sith somehow manages to wiggle himself into office, to save the city; we’ll probably have to do a whole flurry of petitions!
* For petitions covering nominating regional political positions or state-wide issues; each community must have its own separate sheet.
I did not know that you were allowed to have the signer PRINT thier name above their signature. Thanks for that info!
I am always frustrated, when gathering signatures, about two things:
1) The person who backs away as if you are trying to transmit a disease, saying “Oh no! I don’t want my NAME on anything political!” I try to reassure them that the purpose of the petition is to have quesiton to be put to the voters, so that the VOTERS can ecide. By signing a peition, you are not committing yourself on the quesion itself. It’s part of the democratic process, as you point out. Also- I tell them that no records are kept of these signatures after they are certified. (Are these people paranoid?)
2) Legibility. The instructions use the word LEGIBLE, and I always ask people to sign their name so someone who doesn’t know them can read it. But they scribble something and hand it back, saying “That’s how I sign my name.” (Such a self-centered remark, if you ask me!) They have just wasted a space on the petition, their time and my time!
But I will not let these annoyances stop me from petitioning. It’s a great way to get conversatons going, at the very least.