Have you ever felt passionate about an issue and wanted to convince people that something could be done? Did you get that sense of frustration when you had made your points in a conversation and the person you were talking to said something like, "So what are you going to do about it?" They may have gotten your points, but they are wondering what it is that you want from them. The conversation is not wasted effort, but needs a point, the point of a pen in particular.
Signatures on petitions are cumulative. Once signed the petition holds the power of that convincing conversation to concentrate the energy of people on a goal.
Some people believe that the Initiative Petition is American Democracy's last line of defense from the power of special interests. Often, these people also believe that our representative form of government has become a series of toll booths for the powerful, largely because the complexity of issues defies quick explanations and gives the edge to carefully defined "sound bites" prepared by professionals to appear as though the issue is simple and obvious. Issues that require any significant amount of background to understand are easily sidetracked by moneyed interests who know how to use the media.
However, the recent development of professional signature gathers threatens to make this refuge of democratic ideals into another tool for money to manage their interests at the expense of the population and distort the image of public interest. It is likely that if you have ever signed an Initiative Petition you were accosted on a public walkway by a poorly informed "volunteer". You signed it not because of what the petitioner said but because of what you already knew. You simply took that opportunity to do what you had already decided to do. It is also likely that the "volunteer" was a paid employee of a petition signature gathering service.
The current dominance of petition gathering by paid interests is due to the complexity and expense of organizing a petition campaign. This has always been the difficulty with Initiative Petitions because by their very nature they are single topic political issues that have an impassioned following for a short time. Once that issue is resolved, in their favor or not, this following withers away and their political activism recedes like the storm driven flood that it is. So for all that energy and passion there is seldom any organization remaining after the petitions are filed and put to a vote.
This is the American Petition Tree opportunity.
A standing organization of activists for democracy can have hundreds or even thousands of "petition parties" in the weeks after the petition registration has ended. The parties can take many different forms, from fairs to pot luck gatherings to small private gatherings hosted in private homes. They will all have in common the availability of all the outstanding petitions and a pro and con analysis of each. The parties will have all the requirements covered to be legal and authorized so that the signatures gathered can be assured validity. Some of the attendees will want to have their own parties to gather signatures as will some of their attendees. The cascade effect is an important part of the Petition Tree formula, and one reason why starting early is important.
The petition party approach depends on the importance of face to face rather than face to TV communications. The information that people have is very often just what they have heard from the media sources, without any first hand input from those affected, who really know the issue. This is why the petition parties emphasize open discussion among the participants. Advocates may be present or video tapes from them can be available.
Democracy requires active participation by voters, but when there is an apparent lack of interest by voters does not mean that they do not care, but that they feel that what they can do will not make a difference. This is not the result of a passive electorate, but the result of special interests rigging the sytem to exclude the concerns of ordinary people.
Good people are the least suspicious and when they are lied to they will often not react with certainty, instead they give the liar the benefit of the doubt. It is hard for most to acept that someone would lie to their face.
Signing the petition will be their response.