Petitions

Lawmakers on every level pay attention to petitions because they help amplify the voices of citizens as well as the public support for specific issues. The effectiveness of a petition largely depends on how many signatures are collected. Online petitions can greatly increase the level of effectiveness by amassing signatures quickly and easily. All it takes is a number of tweets and Facebook posts for lawmakers to realize there are real people in their communities who care about these issues. Technology has done an amazing job of making these policy-makers accessible to the average person. 

Please take a moment to consider signing our global petition, and sharing it on all social media platforms. 

Coming soon is an official e-petition to the House of Commons of Canada that will be sponsored by MP Michelle Rempell Garner, Shadow Minister for Industry and Economic Development. Once the review process is completed, the petition will have 120 days to accumulate as many signatures as possible. If 500 signatures are collected, the petition will receive final certification and it will be presented to the House of Commons! The government is required to respond to the petition within 45 calendar days following the HOC presentation. Please be sure to check here in the near future to see the current status of the petition. 

To show just how effective online petitions can be, and the results that they can achieve, we have compiled a list of some notable petitions below. 

As the trial of Casey Anthony, who was accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter Caylee in 2008, played out in 2011, a petition called for the creation of Caylee’s Law, which would make it a felony for a parent of a guardian to fail to report a missing child if the child could be in danger. 

It was one of the first petitions of the decade to go viral, Change.org says, ultimately attracting more than 1.3 million signatures. At least 10 states since then have passed versions of Caylee’s Law. 

Meriam Ibrahim, a pregnant Sudanese Christian woman, was placed on death row in Sudan for the crime of “apostasy” — for marrying a Christian man. A huge part of the public fight against Ibrahim’s sentence centered on a petition circulated by Amnesty International, which gained widespread media attention, over a million signatures, and sparked condemnation from governments worldwide. The ensuing potential diplomatic row convinced the Sudanese authorities to free Ibrahim, who fled first to Rome (where she met the Pope) and then to America, where her husband has citizenship. The case received huge attention in the US media and was celebrated as a victory for public pressure and awareness. 

Death row prisoner Rodney Reed was sentenced more than 20 years ago for the 1996 murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites in Bastrop, Texas. Reed says he is innocent, and attorneys from the Innocence Project say they have evidence that exonerates him. The lead prosecutor in his case maintains that he is guilty. 

Reed was scheduled to be executed on November 20. But in the weeks leading up to that date, outcry to stop the execution grew from supporters, including celebrities, clergy and lawmakers. Almost 3 million people signed a petition at freerodneyreed.com, and a petition on Change.org garnered more than 950,000 signatures. Days before he was scheduled to die, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals blocked Reed’s execution, allowing a lower court to consider additional evidence. 

When she was 16 years old, Cyntoia Brown was tried as an adult and sentenced to life in prison for killing a man who had bought her for sex. Years after her sentencing, her case gained widespread attention and inspired the viral hashtag #FreeCyntoiaBrown after A-list celebrities like Rihanna and Kim Kardashian West publicly advocated for Brown’s release. 

In 2018, the Tennessee Supreme Court ruled that Brown must serve at least 51 years in prison before she would be eligible for release. After that ruling, a petition on Change.org called for then-Gov. Bill Haslam to grant her clemency. He did so in January of 2019, and Brown was released from prison later that year in August at the age of 31. 

Maryland high school student Sydney Helfand started a petition in January urging Congress to pass the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act to make animal cruelty a federal felony. The PACT Act had come extremely close to becoming law in 2017. Though the Senate passed it unanimously, it stalled in the House. 

Nearly 800,000 people signed the petition and in November of 2019, the Senate passed the bipartisan legislation that the House had approved a month earlier. US Rep. Ted Deutch of Florida credited Helfand, in part, for the bill’s success. President Donald Trump signed the PACT Act into law. 

Valerie Wood-Harper  produced a hugely successful petition on Change.org demanding an investigation into the death of her disabled brother Quinten, whose case was later determined to have been mishandled by the Oklahoma child welfare agency. Quinten died as a result of neglect by his father — who would be charged and sentenced as a result of the outrage created by the petition and the media attention it received. 

Quinten’s death would have further consequences: it also produced the Quinten Douglas Wood Act of 2014, in which child welfare officers in the state of Oklahoma can classify disabled children in the same category as infants or those unable to communicate, and access their school attendance and doctor’s records to source possible signs of neglect. 

In 2003, Americans were shocked to discover that a petition of 1.3 million Californians had resulted in the election of Arnold Schwarzenegger as governor. The “recall petition,” as it’s officially known in politics, was the first successful one of its kind in Californian history. 

In case this episode has passed from your memory, the petition was organized by politicians hoping to oust the unpopular governor Gray Davis, who’d just been sworn in again months earlier. The public were hugely against Davis, and the petitioners managed to get the 900,000 signatures necessary for a recall election (and several hundred thousand more, to boot) with the help of cash injections and a sympathetic local press. Result: Davis out, Schwarzenegger in. If The Governator ever gets around to running for President, we can say with seriousness that he was propelled there by a petition. 

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