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GoPetition has over the last 11 years seen nearly 50,000 petitions on a variety of subjects ranging from local community issues to profound international and human rights issues. GoPetition was founded in 2000 to provide the means for individuals to gather support for important causes. Since our foundation we've helped many goals to be successfully realised - GoPetition users have helped to save forests, kept important community services like universities open, assisted initiatives to save lives, changed laws, products, tv shows, movies, people and groups. GoPetition has helped to reshape political outcomes in different ways.
With petitions in 75+ countries and a variety of academic, NGO and Govt patrons, GoPetition currently leads in the international petition hosting space. GoPetition has also been warmly received at a popular level with over 100,000 facebook fans liking the site. For information about using our services, please refer to the links below.
The interesting meaning and history of petitions
In a "secular" sense, petitions request an authority, most commonly a government official or public entity. However, in recent modern usage, petitions are frequently addressed to a wide variety of targets. Example targets at GoPetition include, political parties, presidents, prime ministers, senators, ambassadors, campaigners, educational institutions, sports organizations, media organizations, entertainment producers, TV stations, film and TV producers, studios, neighborhood authorities or home owner associations, just to name a few.
Historical perspectives of petitions
In pre-modern Imperial China petitions were always sent to an Office of Transmission (Tongzheng si or 通政司) where court secretaries would read petitions aloud to the emperor. Petitions could be sent by anybody, from a scholar-official to a common farmer, although the petitions were more likely read to the emperor if they were persuasive enough to impeach questionable and corrupt local officials from office. When petitions arrived to the throne, multiple copies were made of the original and stored with the Office of Supervising Secretaries before the original written petition was sent to the emperor.
The British experience shares common ground with the Chinese. Dating back to the reign of King Edward I, in thirteenth century England, the presentation of a petition acted as a trigger for the creation of laws. Indeed, Petitions were a common form of protest and request to the British House of Commons in the 18th and 19th centuries. The largest being the petition of the Chartists.
The formation of the United States of America included the notion of protecting the right to petition. The Petition Clause of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees the right of the people "to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." The right to petition has been held to include the right to file lawsuits against the government.
Petitions are also commonly used in the U.S. to qualify candidates for public office to appear on a ballot. While anyone can be a write-in candidate, a candidate desiring that his or her name appear on printed ballots and other official election materials must gather a certain number of valid signatures from registered voters. In jurisdictions whose laws allow for ballot initiatives, the gathering of a sufficient number of voter signatures qualifies a proposed initiative to be placed on the ballot. The 2003 California recall election, which culminated in the recall of Governor Gray Davis and the election of Arnold Schwarzenegge, began when U.S. Representative Darrell Issa employed paid signature gatherers who obtained millions of signatures at a cost to Issa of millions of dollars. Once the requisite number of signatures was obtained on the recall petition, other petitions were circulated by would-be candidates who wanted to appear on the ballot as possible replacements for Davis. After that step, a vote on the recall was scheduled.
The modern phenomenon of Internet petitions has extended the scope of the popular form to general authorities. In February 2007, an online petition against road pricing on the UK Prime Minister's own website attracted over 1.8 million e-signatures, from a population of 60 million people. The nature of social networking and Internet technologies has made the signature collection process more efficient. Politicians have mixed feelings about this as the implication of greater accountability disturbs many. In Australia, for example, Liberal backbencher Wilson Tuckey said he was opposed to the move towards "e-democracy". He contends that "paper" petitions are more serious than e-petitions. Tuckey and other politicians may have other reasons for not welcoming electronic campaigns. It could be argued that many politicians just don't want to be inundated with voter campaigns and political responsibility and/or transparency.Legal status of petitions
The legal status of a petition will depend on its target. The legality of written petitions to various houses of parliament, whether to representatives, senate or local council chambers, will depend on the specific rules of jurisdiction (which vary broadly in Western democracies). Of course, many petitions are not written to parliaments or governments and therefore do not have to comply with any government regulations or standing orders. In this latter context, a petition has moral and social force rather than legal force. The legality of Internet petitions, even if addressed to government, is a more complex question.The legal status of epetitions is in a state of flux. Some jurisdictions accept them and some don't. Scotland, Queensland (Australia), NSW (Australia) and Number 10 (UK) all accept internet petitions. In the USA, the White House recently introduced an epetition service (as of October 2011). While internet petitions in other jurisdictions may have questionable legal effect, the signatures of thousands or millions of people represent a moral force which could initiate change in many different circumstances. Non-governmental organizations such as Amnesty International often use petitions in an attempt to exert moral authority in support of various causes. At GoPetition, many Internet campaigners have reported success stories.
The term "petition" also has a specific "legal" meaning in the legal profession as a request, directed to a court or administrative tribunal, seeking some sort of relief such as a court order. A petition can be the title of a legal pleading that initiates a case to be heard before a court. The initial pleading in a civil lawsuit that seeks only money (damages) might be titled (in most U.S. courts) a complaint; an initial pleading in a lawsuit seeking non-monetary or "equitable" relief such as a request for a writ of mandamus or habeas corpus, or for custody of a child or for probate of a will, would instead be termed a petition.
As can be seen from the above notes, the term "petition" can be used quite broadly and has had a number of different social uses over time. For more information about Internet petitions, please refer to the links below.
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