There are several ways to start an official or private petition. Or you can find one you want to support and sign it. Your options depend in part on where you live. In the United Kingdom, Germany, and the European Union, rules exist for official petitions to parliaments, and a public infrastructure allows petitions to be easily submitted and signed electronically; in the United States, however, these requirements are lacking. Please note: Unofficial petitions have no legal binding force and are often not addressed to parliaments or their petitions committees.
United States official petitions
The First Amendment of the United States Constitution guaranties the Right to Petition Government. The Petition section of the first amendment, also commonly referred to as the Petition Clause, states that "Congress shall make no law (...) abridging (...) the right of the people (...) to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
That means essentially people have the right to appeal to government in favor of or against policies that affect them or in which they feel strongly. This freedom includes the right to gather signatures in support of a cause and to lobby legislative bodies for or against legislation.
However, there is no official system or digital infrastructure to start an electronic petition in the United States, neither to petition the U.S. Government nor U.S. Congress. You have to do all the work by yourself and find others who join you. Nevertheless, you are free to lobby the Government, President, Congress and other elected officials and legislative bodies. You can gather signatures in support of your cause.
Freedom Forum Institute: Freedom of Petition Overview
American Bar Association: Right to Petition
United Kingdom official petitions
Start a petition in the UK
Are you living in the UK or a British citizen? UK residents and British citizens can create an official petition on the UK Parliament site very quickly to lobby the British Government and the House of Commons. Only British citizens and UK residents can sign a petition and this only once. At beginning you need five people to support your petition before it is published. All petitions run for 6 months. You can start a petition now.
The House of Commons Petitions Committee reviews all petitions and can select petitions of interest to find out more about the issues raised. At 10,000 signatures your petition on the Parliament site gets a response from the government. At 100,000 signatures your petition will be considered for a debate in the House of Commons. Petitions which reach 100,000 signatures are almost always debated in the House of Commons. You can learn more on how petitions work at the petition help desk at the parliamentary website.
There are some basic standards for petitions. (1) Petitions must call for a specific action from the UK Government or the House of Commons. (2) Petitions must be about something that the UK Government or the House of Commons is directly responsible for.
Sign a petition in the UK
To join a petition, you must first find it. You can search for it or view all open petitions. Only British citizens or UK residents have the right to sign. To sign you have to provide your name email address, country of residence and your postcode. That’s all. You have six months to sign a petition.
UK Parliament: Petitions Portal
UK Parliament: Paper Petitions
European Parliament petitions
The right to petition the European Parliament is set out in Article 227 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and Article 44 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. It guarantees that any citizen of the European Union, or resident in a Member State, may, individually or in association with others, at any time submit a petition to the European Parliament on a subject which comes within the European Union's fields of activity and which affects them directly. There is an established petitions process in the European Parliament that ensures you have the opportunity to communicate with Parliament and express your right to petition.
Start a Petition
To start a petition you need an account on the parliamentary website. Create a user account. The petition portal is designed to allow you to submit your petition electronically. You can also submit your petition in paper. Your paper petition must include your name, nationality, permanent residence, and must be signed. The petition should be sent to: Chair of the Petitions Committee, European Parliament, B-1047 BRUSSELS.
Support a petition
To join a petition, you have to find it first: European Parliament: Find a petition. In order to support petitions and receive information about them, you need to initially create a user account on the parliamentary petitions website. If you support a petition, you do not acquire petitioner status; nevertheless, you will be entitled to receive notifications about any further developments concerning the petition.
European Parliament: Petitions Web Portal
Germany official petitions
The legal basis for official Petitions in Germany provides the following two articles of the Basic Law, the Constitution of the Federal Republic.
Article 17 Basic Law
“Every person shall have the right individually or jointly with others to address written requests or complaints to competent authorities and to the legislature.”
Article 45c Basic Law
“(1) The Bundestag shall appoint a Petitions Committee to deal with requests and complaints addressed to the Bundestag pursuant to Article 17.”
The right to petition is thus one of the constitutionally guaranteed fundamental rights of the Federal Republic of Germany. Article 17 guarantees everyone the right to submit a petition - regardless of whether he or she is of age, a foreigner or lives abroad.
Submitting a petition to the Bundestag
You can easily submit your petition to the electronic portal of the German Bundestag. It does not matter whether it is a personal matter or whether you want to solicit support for a matter of general interest. Submitting a petition requires only a few steps.
Petitions can also be submitted by letter, fax or postcard. If the petition is submitted by mail or fax, a handwritten signature is required. You can send your paper petition to the following postal address: Deutscher Bundestag, Petitionsausschuss, Platz der Republik 1, 11011 Berlin.
Public petitions can only be submitted electronically. A petition that is to be published must meet certain requirements. These include primarily:
- The request must be of general interest.
- It must not contain any personal references.
- The concern and the reasons for it must be formulated concisely and in a way that is generally understandable.
- Only topics for which a factual discussion can be expected are published.
To submit a petition that is to be published, it is also necessary to register a user account. You can submit a non-published petition without registering: Submit a personal petition without registering.
Sign a petition to the Bundestag (co-sign)
Electronic portal of the Petitions Committee (in German)
Web page of the Petitions Committee of the German Bundestag (in German)
Private Petition Sites
Please note: Unofficial petitions have no legal binding force and are often not addressed to governments, parliaments or their petitions committees.
Change.org is a worldwide petition website, based in San Francisco, USA. The website says it has over 480 million users. The private owned website offers the public the ability to promote petitions they care about to potential signers.
openPetition supports petitioners in creating their petition, collecting signatures and submitting the petition to the appropriate recipient. In addition, openPetition solicits statements from parliamentarians regardless of the formal petition process. openPetition is based in Berlin, Germany.