Signature collection

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Table set up with petition sheets. Photo credit: Washington Secretary of State
Signature collection is the catch-all term for what supporters of ballot measures or candidates do in order to get from Point A (a blank petition with no signatures on it) to Point B (a petition with at least some signatures on it).

Signatures may be collected on petitions by volunteer circulators, by paid circulators, and by out-of-state petitioners who themselves may be volunteer or paid circulators.

Each state has its own set of rules--as set down in state statute, in opinions of the attorney general, in court rulings and in established norms that may or may not hold up in court in the event of a lawsuit--about what kind of person is legally allowed to collect signatures, and about the manner in which that person may collect signatures.

Restrictions on signature collection

The ability of citizens to collect signatures to place ballot measures on the ballot or to qualify a candidate for the ballot can be made considerably more difficult in a state to the extent that the state--through legislation or through codes promulgated by state officials or officers (such as attorney general or secretary of state)--lays out restrictions on the manner in which signatures can be collected.

Restrictions on the manner in which signatures can be collected include:

  • Restrictions on where a circulator can stand, or physically situate himself or herself, in order to present the petition to passersby and request their signature.