The hardest part of petitioning is overcoming the self-consciousness about doing it. Once you decide to get started, the rest is easy.
What You'll Need
- A properly filled out petition. Get the name(s) of the candidates right. On the "party or party principle" line, put "Libertarian Party."
- A ball-point pen. The ideal one that will write easily on non-horizontal surfaces, such as a Papermate Power Point. But a trusty Bic is okay.
- A clipboard.
- Optional: Some voter registration cards, for people who are not registered. (Get them at any municipal or county clerk's office.) Mail the filled-out cards immediately, so they'll be on file when the petition is verified.
- Optional: A few copies of an outreach brochure (only in case people specifically request information).
Where to Go
Any public place with a lot of pedestrian traffic. Best: Somewhere people are slowing down or waiting. My favorite: Near the entrance to a busy supermarket.
Other good places: Near newsstands, outside bakeries or candy stores, on theater lines, at train stations. One person has had success on the PATH train, on his way to work. (By the way, don't waste your time petitioning door-to-door.)
Do you need permission? When petitioning at a supermarket or shopping plaza, don't go to the trouble of trying to find someone to give you their blessing. Assume it'll be okay. If anyone hassles you, you have two options: Either apologetically explain that you didn't realize they required permission here and ask them to take you to the right person, or politely thank them and take your petition elsewhere.
What to Do
Your goal: Most signatures, shortest time. Don't attempt to debate the issues. You are not out to make Libertarian converts.
- Make eye contact.
- Smile and give your six-second sales pitch. A shocking number of people will sign without flinching.
"Hi, I'm trying to get enough signatures on this petition to get my friend, John Doe's, name on the ballot. Can you help me out?" or ... "Hi, I just need a few more signatures to get my candidates name on the ballot. Can you help me out?"
- Common questions and how to handle them:
Is he a Democrat or Republican?
Neither, he's running as a Libertarian. (Note: Since "Libertarian" may not be familiar to them, you didn't mention it in your opening line. At this point you are trying to get signatures, not sell the party or the candidate.)
What is a Libertarian?
Give a brief, non-extreme answer, such as, "Libertarians want less government and lower taxes. We believe in people's rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
I've never heard of your guy. What's he all about?
In addition to mentioning what Libertarians stand for, you might mention one of his or her outstanding personal attributes, such as honesty.
I'm not comfortable about promising to vote for this guy.
Nobody will be looking over your shoulder in the voting booth seven months from now.
Sometimes a person teetering on the edge will be swayed if you say something like, "If the Democrats and Republicans run ugly campaigns again this year, this will give voters another choice in November."
- As they're about to sign, confirm that they're registered to vote and ask them which town they are registered in. (If they're from out of town or outside the district, they can't sign. For a legislative district, know which towns are in it.)
- Benchmark: An effective petitioner at a good location averages 15-20 or more signatures per hour. If you get fewer than 10, try a new approach or location.
Start with a few signatures from friends or family. This will warm you up, plus it will mean you don't have to approach strangers with a blank petition. Extra bonus: Once you get past the ten lines on the first page, the people won't be tempted to read the details of what they're signing.
If you are petitioning for a local candidate, you may want to have a petition form on hand for a statewide candidate also, for non?local people to sign.
Your candidate should always submit more than the required number of names, in case some of the names are declared invalid. To avoid unnecessary heartache, it's a good idea to aim for a 50% margin of safety.
After you're done, take all of your petitions to a notary. In his/her presence, you must sign the statement on each back page stating that you "witnessed" all of the attached signatures. (You can find a notary at any law office or at your bank.)
Finally, return the petition promptly, by the date your petition chairperson requests. Hand delivery is safest. If you mail it, allow ample time for postal delays. Unless directed otherwise, petitions can be mailed to:
PO Box 56
Tennent, NJ 07763
Have fun, and good luck!